I just arrived in Lutenberg. It’s a small town, a few days away from the Advanced Training Center.
It’s been a while since I saw my own status, so I open my status window:
(*Note: Reminder. Each level above 1 now gives an additional 50 health, 20 stamina and 20 mana, Vitality now gives 20 health and 10 stamina and Wisdom gives 20 mana.)
|Name: Kiro||Level: 11 –36.09%||Unused stat points: 50|
|Class: Elemental Swordsman||Alignment: Neutral|
|Title(s): Survivor||Health: 11820|
|Stamina: 5860 (+800)||Mana: 10260 (+4320)|
|Intelligence||493(+ 216)||Wisdom||498 (+ 216)|
Assassin’s Rush: Intermediate lvl 5
Deadly Assassin’s Rush: Intermediate lvl 2
Elemental Attunement: Intermediate lvl 9
Identification: Intermediate lvl 1
Intense Pace: Advanced lvl 1
Iai Strike: Advance lvl 1
Consecutive Single Point Strike: Advanced lvl 2
Critical Strike: Advanced lvl 1
Sneak: Intermediate lvl 9
Bleed: Intermediate lvl 8
Sensing Presence: Advanced lvl 2
Sensing Nature: Intermediate lvl 6
Sensing Magic: Intermediate lvl 6
Protective Aura: Intermediate lvl 9
Life Force: Intermediate lvl 3
Charged Rush: Intermediate lvl 5
Piercing Aura Strike: Intermediate lvl 2
Armor Penetration: Beginner lvl 7
Mana Wave: Beginner lvl 7
Mana Shield: Intermediate lvl 1
Mana Strike: Beginner lvl 9
Elemental Wave: Beginner lvl 9
Charged Elemental Wave: Beginner lvl 8
Charged Mana Wave: Beginner lvl 8
Battle Regeneration: Advanced lvl 1
Berserker’s Soul: Intermediate lvl 1
Blade Mastery: Advanced lvl 1
Blocking: Advanced lvl 1
Climbing: Advanced lvl 1
Dagger Mastery: Advanced lvl 1
Dodging: Advanced lvl 1
Dual Wield Mastery: Advanced lvl 1
Falling: Advanced lvl 1
Footwork: Advanced lvl 1
Holding your Breath: Advanced lvl 7
Magic Mastery: Intermediate lvl 3
Master of Death: Intermediate lvl 7
Moving in a Difficult Environment: Advanced lvl 3
Obstacle Clearing: Advanced lvl 3
Parkour: Advanced lvl 2
Parrying: Advanced lvl 1
Reading: Intermediate lvl 9
Running: Advanced lvl 2
Spellcasting Mastery: Intermediate lvl 4
Survival Cooking: Intermediate lvl 9
Survival Harvesting: Intermediate lvl 9
Survival Leatherworking: Intermediate lvl 4
Survivor: Advanced lvl 1
Sword Mastery: Advanced lvl 1
The Art of Taking a Blow: Advanced lvl 1
Tough Body: Advanced lvl 1
Unarmed Combat: Advanced lvl 1
Elemental Swordsman: Intermediate lvl 6
(*Note: thanks to sensitiveears for providing code for this table.)
I’ve come a long way, if I do say so myself. I made a lot of progress and improved a lot.
Although, even if I say that, my progress has stalled of late. My stats, ever since they reached the 500‘s, increase even slower.
In the same manner, my proficiencies, more specifically those that relate to fighting, are progressing slower. Ever since they reached advanced, their progression have slowed to a crawl. For example, my Blade Mastery is still stuck at Advanced lvl 1, for several weeks now.
But I am not worried. The words that Master Fabridzia uttered, about the Master Training Center being the best place for me to train, seem to address my worries about this situation a little to perfectly for it to be a coincidence.
I turn my attention back to the city I just entered.
I don’t like cities. They are full of… people. So much noise, so much activity, so many situations where I am forced to interact with people.
There is a reason I stick to forests. Talking to people makes my head hurt. Although I do talk to me family every few game weeks.
Am I antisocial? Why yes, yes I am. And proud of it. Social Activity, what is that? Some kind of disease? I don’t want to catch it.
But right now I don’t have much choice.
I think back to what Master Fabridzia said.
“I want you to crush her.”
“After that, she’ll either be disheartened and give up or be fired up and start progressing again. And if she gives up it just means I was mistaken about her.”
“Slow down. First, you want me to... crush her?”
“Crush her, beat her, overpower her, destroy her… I want you to defeat her in a way that show her just how weak she is. I want you to give her the impression that the current her cannot win against you, no matter how hard she tries. That will provide her with the impetus to change herself.”
It makes sense. I, myself, only started training seriously to avenge myself from the humiliation I received from the Mad Carp. That’s how I can say that Master Fabridzia’s plan has some merit.
“Very well. I will do it.”
After that, Master Fabridzia gave me some advice to aid me in my task. First, my targets name: Anarisa. Then, she gave me some advice on how to get her to fight me. It turns out Lutenberg has two dueling arenas: the beginner’s arena, for those under level 10, and the professional arena, for the rest.
The beginner’s arena is for the newbies that just started playing New World. It has nothing of interest for me. So, following Master Fabridzia’s advice, I brought my level over 10 so that I could duel in the main arena.
In this arena, things are different: the stakes are higher, there are different kinds of duels (no weapons, to the death, 2vs2, etc…) and most importantly, there is a ranking system. It’s quite simple. When you first start at that arena, you start with the lowest rank. Then, if you defeat someone with a higher rank, you get his rank, and he gets yours. Simple, right?
Also, if the one with the lower rank loses, he loses a rank. In other words, he and the one after him swap places.
The only rule is that you can only challenge someone that has at most a 20-rank difference with you. So someone with, let’s say… a rank of 43, can challenge someone with a rank of 23, but not someone with a rank of 22. He could also challenge a guy with a rank of 63, but not 64.
This rule is made to both protect the weaker duelists, and to keep the matches interesting: if the person with the rank of 201 fights against the person with a rank of 2, the victor is already predetermined, so it’s no fun.
The winner of a match receives a large sum of money. So the rule is also in place to protect weak fighters against strong ones that are looking for easy game.
I think it’s fair, but it’s also troublesome for me. According to Master Fabridzia, there were 1037 duelists registered in Lutenberg when she last checked. I don’t want to have to spend weeks here fighting my way to the challengers. Ah. The challengers, by the way, refers to the ranks of 21 up to 2. It’s the group of people who have the right to challenge the first place.
Luckily for me, there is another option available to me. It’s the reason I hurried here: the annual Scrambler Tournament.
You see, the ranking system is very fair and works well. It just has one problem: it’s too static.
People fight up the ranks until they reach a place they are comfortable with. Then they stay there. So it comes to a point where there is little movement in the ranks, which is boring. People like upsets.
Which is where the Scrambler Tournament comes in. Just like its name implies it scrambles the rankings to make it more interesting. It’s not uncommon after such tournaments that someone moves up or down the ranks by several hundreds.
This year’s Scrambler Tournament starts this afternoon. I hope to use this opportunity as a shortcut to challenge Anarisa, which is my only objective.
But first, I must register myself as a duelist. To do that I have to go to the professional’s arena, in the middle of the city.
There are a lot of people there, mostly fighters. It’s normal since the tournament starts this afternoon. As magic is forbidden during duels, the city is populated mostly by warrior type classes. Although there are some rogues, and crafters too.
There is a huge line up in front of the registration office. Obviously, I’m not the only one that though of using this tournament to climb the ranks quickly. There no helping it, I’ll just have to endure.
About an hour later there is a commotion at the front of the line, and it starts to advance quickly.
Some type of guardsman was walking down the line towards me, speaking obnoxiously loud: “Listen up, weaklings! There are just too damn many of you. That’s why, we’re adding a little test to see if you are fit to sign up as duelist. It’s simple. When you come up to him, my friend Harry will hit you with his truncheon. If you manage to stay standing, you can sign up. If not, f*ck off and stop wasting my time. That is all. Good Day.”
Well that’s reassuring. In front of me I see a bunch of people leaving the line.
Well, that gets me closer, so it’s fine.
I can now see the Harry that guy was talking about, he looks like a troll. I wonder, is he related in to Master Amenisa? The truncheon he’s carrying looks more like a small tree.
He uses it to whack some poor sod in front of him. The guy’s leg buckle and he falls unto his knees, spewing his guts out.
Suddenly, there are a lot less people waiting in line.
It’s finally my turn. The Harry guy looks me over and smirks. “Any last words, shorty?”
“Yes. Do you know an elvish woman named Amenisa by any chance?”
“Huh? Who is that?”
“No one, never mind.”
“You’re a weird one, alright. Brace yourself.”
He swings his wooden club – more like a miniature tree if you ask me – with all the strength in his massive body. At the moment of impact I take a step back and exhale, to reduce the impact.
Ouch! It hurts. But not as much as the punch of some of the monsters I’ve faced. So I don’t even flinch. That seems to impress him, as he smiles and gestures me onwards. “You’re tough, shorty, I’ll give you that!”
And you’re a gorilla, I wanted to retort, but I guess my high wisdom has some benefits, as I didn’t.
I stepped to the counter and registered myself as a duelist. It was actually pretty easy, I just answered some basic questions: name, class – I received a stern warning not to use magic skills – and level, although the old clerk guy assured me that just my name would be announced.
The procedures done, I received my rank and went on my merry way. My rank is 1209, which means that there were a lot of people that signed up recently.
As the tournament is about to start, I decided to stay here. I don’t want to be late, as late people don’t get to participate. Instead, I head directly to my waiting area.
Before coming here, I was drilled quite intensively by Master Fabridzia. It’s how I know so much about the dueling system in Lutenberg and about the Scramble Tournament. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I can imagine Master Fabridzia entering the tournament as well and wrecking everyone. It’s quite a scary image.
Oh well, let’s go back to the tournament. It has three parts. The first two are there just to play around. It’s where the Scramble effect comes into play.
The first round, for example, is a free for all battle between people who are close in rank. They separate everyone in groups of equal size – usually between 10 and 15 people per group – according to their rank; the last ten for a group, the next ten too, etc, etc… The only people who don’t participate in this part of the competition, or the second part as well, are the challengers and the first place. The rest most participate or be demoted.
In any case, these groups have a free for all match until only one person wins. These fight are usually amusing for the public as the organisers add several comical rules to make these matches more interesting. For example, the organiser could forbid everyone to use their hands, resulting in a kicking match. Also, as the people in the group are close in rank, all usually have a good chance of winning. The winner then takes part in the next stage of the competition.
As for now, I am heading towards my waiting area. I step out from the registering area and onto an open space about the size of a football field. Normally, it serves as a practice/training area for duelists, but today it’s filled with people. I quickly walk to a wooden stake with a sign saying 1202-1211. That will be my group, I guess. Some people are already there. Waiting for the competition to start. Besides us an employee is placing another board that says 1212-1221. It seems they’re expecting more people.
There is nothing to do but wait. I sit down next to our sign and pull out a stick of cooked meat. I might as well eat my fill before our turn comes.
I take a look around at the rest of my group. They all have the same build: huge and muscular. I guess it’s a side effect of that useless test there was at the registration. Already bored, I settle myself to wait.
A few hours later, an official comes to lead us to the arena. It is finally our turn. We enter the arena through one of the two doors ordinarily reserved for fighters. We are then told to wait beside one of the four smaller rings placed on the sandy floor of the arena.
The arena itself has a diameter of perhaps 50 meters. The four rings, which have a diameter of 7 meters, are placed equidistant from each other and the center of the arena, on which a podium has been erected with an announcer standing on top of it, shouting out the results of the matches being held. Four matches are being held at the same time.
The audience, which is numerous, can look at any of the four simultaneously.
The arena floor is crowded with duelist like us which are waiting for our match, officials that are arbitrating the matches, others that are guiding the contestants and even other’s with brooms and rakes, probably to recreate the rings after each match.
Just then, the announcer starts crying out another set of results. We are led to one of the four rings. One of the official stands before us, telling us the rules of our free for all fight: “In this fight, you can only use your hands. You are not allowed to punch or hit your opponents. You can only push and pull them. If you fall, or if you leave the ring, you lose. If you punch, kick or do any sort of attack I have not specifically allowed, including skills, you are disqualified. If there is no victor after 15 minutes, no one moves on to the second round. Any questions?”
The rules were pretty straight forward, so we had none. We all placed ourselves at the edge of the ring, a position from which we could watch each other. We were told to wait for the signal.
I could hear the announcer: “AND NOW! IN THE THIRD RING, WE HAVE THE 1202-1211 DIVISION! THE RULES ARE SIMPLE…”
I stopped listening, my eyes on the referee in the middle of our ring. She was looking at her watch, counting down the seconds with one hand raised in anticipation. She brought it down while shouting: “BEGIN!” in time with the announcer on the podium.
It had begun.
We stood motionless, eyeing each other. Then, breaking the stasis, my neighbor jumped at me, trying to push me out. I was the smallest one here by at least two heads, so it was no surprise I was singled out.
Unfortunately for him, I was his opponent, and I had faced much more imposing gorillas. I easily sidestepped his clumsy charge, grabbed his sleeve with both hands and pivoted, redirecting his charge towards the edge of the ring. He stepped out before being able to brake, and we were 9.
The rest didn’t just stand there twiddling their thumbs. Another had already been pushed out at the same time as my adversary. Two were at the center of the ring, bracing themselves against the floor, hands gripped together as they tried to push the other out through shear strength. Others were circling each other. Except for one, which was charging at me. As he collided with me he tried pushing me but I side stepped, twisting around him instead of being pushed back. I grabbed his sleeve, pulled up, and then, using his own momentum, pulled down in a large circle. I was pulling in the exact same direction he was pushing, offering no chance to resist. His body, following the impulse I had given him, twisted in midair and he landed on his butt. That must have hurt.
I looked around. Now, the only people still in the fight were myself, the two Sumos in the middle and another guy. We looked at each other. I looked at the two in the middle. Back to the guy. We grinned.
We crept up beside the two guys, which were so focused on their opponent they didn’t notice us. Then, at the same time, we pushed them. They fell to their side like uprooted trees.
It was just us two left. I looked him over. He seemed older than the rest, and was probably more experienced than them.
We eyed each other, before he made a dash at me. But to me, his movements, like the movements of all the other contestants, looked slow, very slow. That’s how I could see his every move, and even predict what he would do next.
Every muscle in his body was screaming information at me, telling me he was about to brake right in front of me, trying to take me off guard.
But I was ready. Even as he put his foot down, I took a step to the side. At the same time, I grabbed his shirt, pulling him forward and down.
All of his weight was already on his front foot. By doing what I did, I pulled his center of gravity even more towards the front, resulting in him falling flat on his face.
And just like that, I cleared the first round.
That night, I was taken care of by Master Limanis, the one in charge of the Basic Training Center of Lutenberg. He had been informed of my coming by Master Fabridzia, and welcomed me with open arms. He explained that I was somewhat of a celebrity amongst the Masters of the different Training Centers, as no other players had even reached the Intermediate Training Centers yet.
Even here, very few players in Lutenberg had come to his center, and fewer had completed it.
I honestly don’t understand such people. Everyone, especially warriors, can benefit a lot from the Basic Training, as I did.
In any case, I spent a nice evening, and slept soundly that night. Tomorrow morning will be the next round of the competition.
Today is the second round of the Scramble Tournament. The atmosphere is much more relaxed, as everyone participating in the second round is guaranteed a spot in the top 200. Thus, the meaning of scramble. As a result, everyone is much more relaxed.
The competition is also more relaxed. Just like last year, the contestants will be forming 8 teams and play some sport against each other (the sport is kept secret till the day of the competition). Then, the 4 winning teams play another round, leaving only two teams remaining.
The members of those two teams automatically advance to the next round of the competition. In other words, your chance of victory depends on your teammates, which are picked at random, and the sport, which is also a surprise. Thus, it is mostly determined by luck.
That’s because the second round, just like the first round, is just there to change the rankings, with no regards to the fighting ability of the contestants. This is to create an unbalanced ranking, causing a lot of movement in the next few months.
There are 131 contestants in the second round. So we will be split in teams of 16 or 17.
Every contest is made to pick a letter from a box. The letter you pick will be your team.
The letter I picked was E. I walk over to the corresponding sign to meet my teammates for the day.
I walk over to my team. This time the balance is a little better. We are 9 guys to 7 girls.
We start introducing ourselves. To be honest, I am horrible at names, so I only remembered two of them; a girl named MariseX and a guy with the name KingArthur.
Then, introductions done, we all wait for the competition to begin.
If I had to be perfectly honest, I’d say that this second day of competition was a little boring.
The game we ended up playing is soccer. We were playing on the sand of the arena, which made the field have a weird shape.
(*Note: For those who don’t know, soccer is a game were you try to quick the ball into a goal using only your feet.)
I usually like soccer, it’s fun, but I was stuck playing goalie in my team as no one else wanted to.
So I was stuck in goals during the entire time.
I guess I can’t complain, though, as we won both games. Of course, I didn’t let a single shot get in.
And just like that I got into the third round of the competition.
It’s the third day of the competition. It’s also the start of the third round.
The third round is different from the first two. It’s more serious. It’s an actual tournament, in which the high rankers (ranks 1 to 21), also participate. The winner of the tournament takes the first rank.
It’s the ultimate scramble: even someone, like me, who had one of the bottom ranks, gets a shoot at first place. Even though what I’m interested in isn’t the first place, but rather the fighter in first place.
The tournament table has already been drawn. Adding the 21 high rankers to the 33 of us who won through the first two rounds of the competition, we are 54. Some will have six matches while the rest of us, including me, only have five.
My first match is in late afternoon. But I’ve been here since dawn, observing the other fights.
It will be my first time against a player, I’m a little nervous.
The last fight ended about 10 minutes ago, it’s about time for the next fighters to enter the arena.
I’m excited, because it’s going to be her first match. The first match of Anarisa, first in the ranking and my target.
The other opponent is already there. We are just waiting for her now.
Without warning, the atmosphere around the arena changes. Excitement turns to anticipation, and the crowd, as if it perceives a silent warning, falls silent.
In the midst of such a charged atmosphere, she steps into the arena. Her steps are smooth, like a dancer, or a warrior.
She has long, silky black hair that falls midway to her back, tied in a braid. She’s wearing a simple leather breastplate, with leather pants, both of them brown and worn. It provides a contrast to the shiny and imposing armor her counterpart is wearing. Her build is slender, but she exudes strength and confidence from every pore in her body.
“Beautiful.” I involuntarily whisper.
The two warriors, facing each other in the middle of the arena, draw their weapons and present them to the official arbitrating the match, who checks them to verify that they aren’t enchanted.
Then they take their weapons back, and the official signals the start of the match.
…I have no words to describe the emotions I felt during that very short match. She won in an instant. But during that instant, I understood so much.
She’s like me, exactly like me. She fights like I do, without relying on the system, but on her own abilities.
The way she swings her two swords is so graceful, so precise. I can tell she’s had hours of practice. Much more than me.
Also, I already understand what the problem is. Why Master Fabridzia said she stopped progressing.
Except for us, everyone here is relying on the system assist while they fight. It’s rather obvious for me to discern. That’s because they move similarly. It doesn’t matter how many points they put in agility, or dexterity. It doesn’t matter how fast they are because they follow a pattern. It’s like a musical beat that they are forced to follow. And Anarisa has taught herself to respond to that beat perfectly. No matter how fast her opponent is, no matter what skills they use, she can easily defeat them because she strikes between notes, in a sense. And that’s where her problem lies. She has synchronised herself to this beat, and it allows her to easily defeat any player that relies on the system assist. But because it’s such an effective method, she has no more room for improvement. Should she fight an opponent that has a different beat, she won’t be able to cope. Which explains why Master Fabridzia wanted me to fight her.
To be perfectly honest, when Master Fabridzia first asked me to do this, I was a little reluctant. Fighting someone just to teach them a lesson seemed a little harsh for me. But now, I am all fired up!
It’s really weird. She is probably older than me. She seems to be my sempai in the way of the sword. Yet, why do I feel like she’s a novice and myself her sempai as a fighter?
I want to teach her. That fighting is more fun, and more complex than what she has been doing up till now. I want to show her that there is so much she can improve on, and that she can get so much stronger. More than that, I want to show her that she’ll need to if she wants to call herself a fighter. I want to guide her.
At first I was reluctant, but now I’m eager to cross swords. I’m sure we will be able to communicate much better through those than with words.
I can’t wait.
The next few days were kind of a blur. I had my first match. I was nervous about fighting in front of a crowd, but my opponent was a weakling. I defeated him quickly even while holding back. My next three opponents were pretty much the same.
In a predictable twist of fate, Anarisa and I were on opposite sides of the tournament table. We will fight each other in the finals. I have watched all of her matches, and they only confirmed my first impression.
Then, the day of our match came.
The day before, after her match.
“Mistress Anarisa, won’t you stay a little longer?”
“No, I must go.”
“But you should at least go watch the next match to find out who will be your opponent in the finals. They say there is a really skilled fighter in the semi-finals.”
“I don’t have time. Sorry.”
Honestly, she thought. Every time it’s the same thing. A guy appears, with a higher level than the rest, and people call him a genius. But in the end, they are all the same. Predictable and weak before my sword. There is no point to me wasting my time to watch one of them fight.
Anarisa, or Anamai Samurisa as she was called in the real world, wasn’t playing New World for fun. Ever since she was little, she has been surrounded by swords. Her grandfather had been a famous swordsman, and his style, the Samurisa sword style, perhaps the most famous one in the world of martial arts. Anamai has been practicing that style, in the family’s dojo, ever since she could hold a sword. It was her grandfather, hearing about New World, who suggested she play it to get more fighting experience. Thus, like a dutiful granddaughter she had obeyed.
She had started and Lutenberg, and signed up as a duelist.
Since then, she has been fighting other players. But lately, these fights have been both boring and repetitive. Still, she persists, not wanting to disobey or disappoint her grandfather.
I walk out of the waiting area, and into the arena. It’s different, somehow, from my other times in here.
The crowd is bigger and louder. The sky is a piercing blue. The sand is hot underneath my feet.
My mouth is dry, my hands are shaking, and it takes some effort to still them. I must look calm, no matter how excited I am. My blood is boiling in my veins, I want to start already.
I walk to the center of the arena and stop ten paces or so away from Anarisa. It’s my first time seeing her up close. She’s pretty, very pretty. She has beautiful dark eyes, a small and graceful nose and firm lips. But it doesn’t impact on my willingness to fight. I have fought with too many woman in my dojo, have had my butt handed to me too many times by them to consider going easy on them. Weaker Sex. Whoever said that hasn’t meet the same terrifying women I have.
She looks impassive, or maybe just bored.
Anyways, it’s time we present our weapons for inspection. So I draw out a wooden dagger, and present it to the referee.
Nothing spells humiliating defeat better than a wooden dagger. The referee looks at me, a little wide-eyed: “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” I reply.
That, at least, breaks her out of her bored pose. She yells: “Is this some kind of joke? Are you f*cking kidding me?” While glaring at me. She has a nice voice.
It’s my turn to maintain a poker face. I must not crack a smile. I don’t want her to think I’m mocking her. I understand her anger. The training dagger I took does no damage. It looks like I’m throwing the match. Or mocking her.
Yes, she’s angry, very angry. She feels insulted by me. But, to my dismay, it wasn’t enough. She’s still not looking at me.
She’s already contemplating how she’ll avenge this humiliation. She’s not taking in my posture, my stance. She just assumes I’ll attack just like everybody else.
I can hear the announcer: “AAAAAANNNNNNNNDDDD NOW! THE MOMENT YOU”VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR! THE FINAL MATCH OF OUR ANNUAL SCRAMBLER TOURNAMENT!”
Cheers overflow from the audience. But they seem distant. The voice of the announcer also fades away as I start concentrating on my opponent. My vision, my hearing, they all contract until it seems I am in a small bubble that contains only the two of us. The rest is irrelevant now.
She isn’t focussed on me. So I’ll give her a little warning. The first lesson, I guess.
It starts. I dash towards her, wooden dagger in my right hand.
The strike of her sword is perfectly timed. Swift, accurate, graceful. But I am not a system-assisted fighter. To strike at me, that timing is off.
I easily side-step her strike, and close the remaining distance between us at twice the speed I was going before.
I’m inside her guard. My hand snakes upwards, my dagger rests against her throat. Leaning against her, I whisper: “If this had been a real dagger, you’d be dead.”
Then I back off, putting some distance between us.
Now, she’s finally looking at me. Taking in my stance, the way I have my body tilted sideways, knife in front. Now she’s finally paying attention. Realizing that I’m different from the adversaries she’s had up until now.
Her demeanour changes. She’s alert, focused.
We stand motionless, judging each other.
I’m not in a rush. I did the first move last time, it’s your turn.
She charges in, both her sword drawing an intricate pattern. But it’s easy to dodge.
To my eyes, she’s just too slow. My eyes follow her every move, and even without them my Sensing Presence would be enough for me to catch all of her movements, even with my eyes closed. But I don’t want to use any skills in this fight.
Her attacks keep coming. Left, right, up, down, they come swiftly and accurately. She’s had a lot of practice. But they don’t reach.
She’s getting frustrated. But the pattern of her attacks don’t change. It’s like she has been drilling herself on using these patterns so much that she follows them mechanically, with no deviation, like a player using system assist. It makes her predictable.
I decide it’s time for me to step it up a little. I dodge the swing of her right sword, step in closer, block her left sword with my dagger and deliver a swift punch with my left hand to her stomach, shattering her rhythm. It takes of a little chunk of her life, but that wasn’t the purpose.
She tries taking a step back, but I don’t let her. I step in at the same time. Left with no other choices, she resumes attacking.
So we enter the second stage of our contest.
She keeps trying to back up, to create distance. But I don’t let her. I’m in the perfect range for my dagger, which is shorter than the range she needs for her sword. As a result striking at me is awkward for her.
I block every one of her strikes with my dagger. Since I’m in my range, it’s easy to block near the hilt of her sword, reducing the strain on my dagger (even though it’s a pointless gesture since the dagger I’m using is indestructible, it’s still good practice). Every now and then I give her a swift punch or a kick, to mess with her rhythm.
She speeds up, and I effortlessly keep up with her. She goes faster and faster and I match her every step of the way, until she reaches what I assume is her maximum speed, since she starts slowing down a little.
So this time, it’s me that speeds up. I start stabbing her with my dagger after blocking her strikes. Little strikes, that do no damage but that annoy her. I want to shatter her composure.
As I predicted, at some point she can’t take it anymore and did a large, clumsy overhead blow.
I step in even closer, block her arm with my hand, grab it, twist and execute a hip throw. She falls on her back and rolls to her feet. She seems to be no stranger to being thrown.
She’s breathing heavily. She’s probably not use to extensive fights, as all of hers ended quickly. In contrast, my breathing is still easy.
Now that I have cornered her, I wonder what she’ll try next. She’s angry, confused, the moves she practiced aren’t working. What will she do?
Outwardly, I look calm, but inside, I’m sweating.
Master Fabridzia’s words echo through my mind.
… She’ll either be disheartened and give up or be fired up and start progressing again…
Anarisa charges at me. I do an inwards sigh of relief.
She starts swinging her two swords at awkward angles. Her strikes are no longer graceful. No longer controlled. But they show she hasn’t given up, she’s still trying.
Unfortunately for her, her strikes are not enough to surprise me. I calmly block her strikes, either with my dagger or my hand on her arm.
I keep on delivering little blows with my hand or feet, chipping away at her health.
It’s been half an hour since this fight has started. We are nearing its end.
I think she needs one last push, which I deliver with my hand. Of course, at the same time I also trip her with my foot, making her fall on her backside.
Come on, I say inwardly, there is still something you haven’t tried.
She gets up. She’s at the end of her rope, covered in sand and bruises. She has little health left. Her stamina must be close to spent. But I am pleased to see there is still a fire in her eyes.
Something changes again. This time, she’s about to use her last card.
She yells: “Intense Pace” and attacks.
I’m not surprised, I could even say I planned for this. Ever since I saw her, and knew there was a Basic Training Center here, I realised there was a good chance she visited it. She’s like me, so she would most likely stay until she completed it.
Therefore, she would have been taught that skill.
Her movements have become weird. It’s because she turned on the system assist to use the skill. It’s probably because she has only been confronted with people using system assist to use their skills that she doesn’t realise she can use them without it.
But no matter. I was ready for this, so my response is automatic.
Even as she is executing her first strike, I prevent it.
Using the method I developed in the wilds, I strike her on the arm, arresting her strike before it was even completed.
I do the same thing with the next strike, and the one after that, completely shutting her down.
She’s on system assist, so it’s difficult for her to control her movements. Intense Pace makes her attacks faster, but wilder. Unfortunately for her, I’m not letting her attacks connect.
Then, her skill ends.
It’s also time for me to end this fight.
With the back of my hand, I connect with her wrist. Her left sword goes flying.
Then, dropping my own weapon, I grab her other wrist in both hands. It twist it sharply, making her drop her other sword. I kick out her feet from under her. She falls. I grab her sword and place it against her neck.
We are still in our own world, paying no heed to the screams of the crowd.
“You don’t need to use the system assist to use skills, you know.” I say.
Her eyes widen. Then she asks, in an angry voice: “How are you so strong? Where did you learn to use a dagger like that?”
Wow, her voice is indeed seriously cute. But I must maintain my poker face.
“Well, I did train in a dojo several times a week, I had a few lessons on dagger fighting there, but we mostly learned multiple martial arts, like taekwondo and judo, there.”
“There is no way that’s the reason you’re so strong! I've been training in a dojo my entire life! What kind of dojo was it?”
“Just a small dojo in Kiwana. But I am this strong because I have trained in this world, fighting different kinds of monsters along the way. There is no way that someone like you, that has only fought one type of enemy, can defeat me.”
She goes quiet.
… She’ll either be disheartened and give up or be fired up and start progressing again…
Those words creep in my mind again.
But her next words calm my fears.
With eyes filled with determination, her entire attitude belligerent, she yells at me: “Don’t be so conceit. Next time we fight, I will beat you into the ground.”
I couldn’t help myself. Filled with happiness, I smile.
Then I delivered the final blow.