Turning around while backing up a little, Lia saw the cocky kid, Johan, again. Behind him were the same three men from before, plus three new ones, all with the same expression under their armour. They were pitying her. He still wasn’t done with her.
‘All of them have a normal bastard sword, the annoying kid instead has a stick, obviously what he used to hit me. Maybe he thought I’d drop unconscious, too bad for him. My health… still 87 HP remaining. Looking again, they all have quite the protection, even the kid. He’s too persistent. If he remains alive I won’t be able to go around undisturbed. Still, if I kill him now I’d have to run away from this town and I know I won’t last long outside as I am at the moment. Judging from how I dealt with him last time, and how long the three thugs took to get out of my Primordial Fear, they’d be no match for me, thus the ones he brought along should be stronger than them. This means they could be able to one-shot me. If I get killed, as I am, the only detrimental thing would be that I’ll have to wait 42 hours (IRL) before coming back. I doubt the kid has an interest in corpses. Or immortal people. I wonder why they made it so that only players can distinguish between who is human and who is an NPC.’
Lia measured the distance between her and the three new guys, then slowly added some more distance by walking backwards to the right. The three new subordinates noticed, but didn’t say anything.
‘They have keen eyes.’
Now that there was enough distance…
Johan and the guards were stunned. Lia turned off Primordial Fear, lowered herself and clenched her fists, then promptly ran towards them. The new guys reached for their swords while Lia was in front of Johan. One of the new guards was at her left, sword in his hands and she swung her first toward the kid.
The guard raised his sword as her punch reached Johan’s face, hearing his nose cracking and breaking, his head going backwards. She raised herself at the same time the sword went for her neck. The guard noticed, but didn’t stop, knowing what her future would’ve been otherwise.
The blade began cutting her skin. Blood began to flow out. The sword went deeper. Her vertebrae began to separate. The sword reached the carotid. A fountain was made as the sword finished its job. Her head rolled off.
|You have died|
Lia opened her capsule in time to see her mother do the same.
‘Tsk, getting your neck cut hurts.’
“Taking a pause, mom?”
Said Lia while massaging the back of her neck and shoulders as she left the capsule. She took off her suit and wiped herself with a towel she kept near the capsule before putting some comfortable clothes on.
“Kinda, Jack called so today I’m probably going to have to attend to those boring meetings all day. How’s the game lately?”
“I just died to some prick. Do you want me to make breakfast while you take a shower?”
“Yeah, thanks cutie. I will find out who messed with you anyway and give them a lesson they won’t forget.”
Elisabeth joked a bit and winked at her daughter before leaving the room where Lia silently stood, her eyes blank as they watched her mother’s back disappear.
Seconds later, Lia checked the time and went to the kitchen. It was six in the morning, if she was quick, she could get to school before lessons started. She also had things to ask her mother. She chose to make some toast with strawberry jam for her and eggs with bacon for Elisabeth. Once the food was ready, she was about to prepare some coffee and lemon tea when her mother arrived.
“Are you going to school today?”
Lia nodded, switched on the coffee machine and began heating some water.
“Mom, in the game, can I change class once I’ve chosen one?”
Elisabeth took a seat in front of her plate while she waited for Lia to finish making the coffee, then she directly took a sip when Lia brought it over to her along with her question, she waited for her daughter to sit before answering.
“Honey, thank you for the food. And, no, you can’t. After you choose a class, you’re stuck with that one until you delete your account. Have you chosen one?”
Said that, Elisabeth ate her eggs and bacon, stopped, added a bit more salt and resumed eating.
“I thought of becoming a swordswoman, but now I guess I’ll make do until I find something that can be interesting. Though now I wonder for how long I will stay without a class.”
Lia instead spread her jam on her toast and put a slice of lemon along with some sugar in her tea before answering.
“Simple, just go in the forest near Thyw to train until you can kill a monster with… let’s say.. 10? Levels more than you. By then you shouldn’t have a problem going around class-less, but still use the 5 points you get each level very carefully. Oh, I almost forgot, don’t be surprised when you reach level 15, the event is simply a gift Yuki prepared for you and her other ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ who chose to play the game despite everything.”
The long speech made Elisabeth thirsty so she drank her coffee while looking at Lia who frowned at her words.
Half because she didn’t understand her mother’s meaning, the other because she mentioned Yuki.
“I don’t get it, but okay, I will… accept her gift. We have to go or we’ll be late.”
Her mother gave her a surprised look but then nodded and .
“Ah yes, school. Even if I have to be late at work, I’m going to have a talk with the principal about what happened. Last time he said he’d take care of that girl, but I’ve yet to hear back from him. Also, remember that I’m taking you to the dojo after we have lunch at L’Espoir.”
“Do you really need to bother about that? You know I wasn’t exactly nice to her before.”
“… I will keep that in mind.”
While saying that, Lia stared at Elisabeth, who, after a small sigh, accepted.
Walking through the corridors, Elisabeth and Lia could feel the occasional glances of the students. They probably thought that it was again about that time. Last week, that time when Jennifer and three other girls cut her hair and then dumped a bucket of cold water on her.
Of course Lia could have retaliated, but she didn’t feel like passing from victim to perpetrator, nor had she ever been bullied like this before, thus she wanted to try to experience it fully and even tried to cooperate, something that had clearly disturbed the bullies at that time. To them, it wasn’t just her emotions that were messed up.
‘I guess should go get the books I’ll need today while mom talks with the principal. Seeing me walking with my mother in school, I bet two or three people went to warn Jennifer. I don’t think she has the balls to confront me alone, so I guess she’s probably trying to avoid me at the moment.’
Elisabeth knocked on the door of the principal’s office and when she heard a “Come in” she looked at her daughter, saying:
“Then, like always, we’ll see each other at the gates once school is over, okay dear?”
Nodding, Lia began walking toward her locker while Elisabeth entered the room in front of her.
Lia arrived there, only to surprisingly find Jennifer leaning on the wall near a door. Nonetheless, Lia ignored her and began taking out her books from the locker.
“Hey, where are your manners, you unfeeling pig? Shouldn’t you be saying hi to me? It’s been, what, a week since we last saw each other?”
Lia wondered just where did Jennifer’s courage come from. Last time, it was from numbers, but what about now? She was all alone, and she knew how strong Lia was. Her body knew it very well.
‘It makes you wonder how far a person would go to get others’ attention. In this last year we have known each other, I have never even once pronounced a word to her. I have beaten her up though. Maybe she’s some kind of masochist?’
After a few more failed attempts, Jennifer clicked her tongue and walked away as class was starting. Likewise, Lia went her own way as well, briefly stopping by the bathroom to adjust her white eyepatch with a complicated representation of a purple rose, which continued on even on its strings, one of her favourites.
Elisabeth opened the door and saw three chairs in front of the principal’s desk. The room was filled with trophies and certificates, the desk with important-looking documents and two pictures of the principal’s family.
“Ah, Mrs. Ashenworth I see you have come to visit me once again. I hope this time we could have a nice conversation.”
“Well, I hope so too.”
The principal and Elisabeth then began chit-chatting with each other for a few minutes before Elisabeth decided it was time to breach the main topic.
“So, how are you going to deal with Jennifer Morgan? I heard you already expelled the other three, so why is that girl still here?”
Hearing her words, the principal sighed, “Her parents are really good lawyers.”
“And they hinted at Ms. Yvonne’s own treatment of their daughter, saying that though there was no proof, considering the renown level of skill of Mrs. Elisabeth’s daughter, leaving no proof would be no problem.”
“I understand, though if that girl tries something again I’ll make that family regret it.”
Sighing again, the principal thought to himself ‘They said the same thing…’
After some more chit-chat and a farewell, Elisabeth went away with a disturbingly calm face, making the principal feel helpless.
After lunch, Elisabeth drove for half an hour before reaching a dojo. This “dojo” which was quite near to Crathos Inc., housed the various martial artists and instructors that were hired by the company to help developing their softwares and their employees. Naturally, even outsiders could enter to receive their teachings, but the cost certainly wasn’t small at all.
The building looked like all the other skyscrapers near it, full of one-way glass walls and with a simple but high tech-like feeling, made Lia remember her conversation with her mother back when she came here for the first time.
“Is it really a dojo?”
“Ahah, everyone always asks that, but it really is one, plus the guy who is going to be teaching you is really good too. The very best one.”
Lia stopped her thoughts as they got out of the car and walked up to the receptionist, a young woman who had black hair with dark blue meshes and black eyes.
“Greetings Mrs. Ashenworth, it’s been a while since your last visit. Lia, I wish you good luck!”
“Hi Amanda, I wouldn’t say a ‘while,’ I came here last month, didn’t I?”
“Yes, but you didn’t pay a visit to Master Trevor back then, right?”
The young woman was Amanda Lake, she had just graduated and had been working here for the last six months, where her younger sister trained. Lia stepped forward to greet her too.
“Hello, and thanks. I hope to do well too.”
“Sigh, time flies by so fast, who would’ve known that that cute little toddler I met ten years ago would now be taking the exam to become a 3rd dan expert? When you were twelve it created such an uproar when they gave you the black belt, I wonder if those old fogeys will be noisy once again.”
After Lia and Amanda finished greeting and chatting a little, Elisabeth thought it was time to cut in.
“Can you call Master Trevor and tell him we’re here so he can start preparing?”
Amanda nodded, made a call and then after an “okay, please follow me,” the three went to take an elevator to the 37th story.
Once the elevator stopped and they exited, they found themselves in a room that took up almost the entire space of the floor, the ground was covered in tatami, the wall on their right was completely covered by mirrors while the one on the left was almost fully hidden too, but by weapons this time.
Facing said wall was a sixty-something bald old man, dressed with one of those blue kimonos used for training, swinging a bamboo sword up and down, with 12~15 people in-between the man and the mirror wall, their back towards it, intently watching the man warming himself up.
Elisabeth and Lia both called out and bowed.
The old man stopped and slowly put the sword on the floor, while one of the people watching him got up and brought him a towel to wipe the sweat. Done with that, he walked towards the three women who just entered, nodded to Amanda, who promptly left after that, and then hugged Elisabeth.
“Elisabeth, it’s been so long, it’s a pleasure seeing you again after so long!”
“The pleasure is mine.”
They each smiled at one another, falling in a short daze while they thought back to the old times, then he noticed Lia and asked:
“Are you ready for the exam, young lady? If so, go get changed.”
Hearing him speak, Lia nodded and walked away. She found the situation was quite similar to the first time she came here.
“So, I take it this young lady is your daughter?”
“Yes. Come on dear, introduce yourself.”
They both looked at Lia, who in return had been staring the fifty-something old man in the eyes.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Lia Yvonne Ashenworth”
Like her mother did before, Lia bowed a little.
“Good. My name is Trevor Lee, I’m the instructor of this floor’s dojo.”
The man then looked over her from head to toe, while he spoke to Elisabeth again with a visible frown on his face.
“I understand that you probably are here to ask me to teach her, but isn’t she just a six years old kid that recently went through rehab? More than her physical condition, I’m worried about her mental condition.”
Trevor shook his head as Elisabeth gave him a bitter smile as she said:
“She was who asked for this, and I was reluctant too, but when I saw that she had started training on her own anyway, I thought it would’ve been better if she had a good teacher so I could worry for her less.”
Trevor was a little surprised, but then he quickly made a wry smile at Lia.
“… I see, I won’t say anything more then. Since everything is resolved now, I guess I’ll show the young lady some tricks. Abigail! Go with Lia to get her a kimono and then accompany her to the changing room. Faze! You choose an appropriate sword for her!”
Two people stood up, a man and a young girl. The man, Faze, looked to be 25/26 years old, he had dark brown hair and blue eyes, certainly he didn’t lack muscles and seemed to be around 190cm tall. He then proceeded to inspect some swords that hung on the opposite wall.
The girl, Abigail, was only about 5 cm taller than Lia, appeared to be only 8 to 9 years old and had her black hair, black eyes and a cute asian-like face. Abigail swiftly arrived in front of Lia and smiled.
“Hi there, name’s Abigail Lake, feel free to call me Abby, Lia”
After a nod, Lia shook hands with Abigail, who didn’t let her hand go and just dragged her to the only other way out of this room, situated near the elevator, the stairs. They walked down a story and entered the 36th floor.
“Can I ask how did you become interested in martial arts? It didn’t seem like it came from your mother.”
“I want to be able to protect myself and mom.”
Abigail pushed open the door and inside there was a white corridor perpendicular to them which led to two doors, to the right was the men’s changing room, while on the left was the women’s. In front of them in the middle of the corridor were a man and a woman standing behind a big white counter, behind them a third door.
“Abby, are you showing around the place to a new member?”
The man asked while eying Lia.
“Nah, not now. Master wants a kimono for her.”
“I see, then Marie, please take care of it.”
The woman nodded, she came out from behind the counter and guided the two girlsto the women’s changing room. Lia took off her jacket and other stuffy clothes and let Marie take her measures, afterwards she went to fetch her a kimono of her size.
While Marie was away Abigail and Lia started chatting.
“Why do you have white hair? You don’t seem old…”
“Because I had a trauma.”
“I see. …But what is a trauma?”
“It means that you got really scared.”
“Eh? But when I watched the dad’s favourite horror films, I got really scared, but my hair didn’t turn white…”
Lia shook her head at Abigail, she too wasn’t clear as to why her hair hadn’t become white. They continued to have such naive banter even as Marie came back, when Lia started dressing and when they went back up the stairs.
When she entered in the 37th floor again, Lia found the people who before were all seated between the mirrors and Trevor, more or less equally seated in front of the right and left wall, facing the center, in which Trevor was standing, directly looking at her with his fierce blue eyes while holding two katanas.
Abigail quietly took a seat near the queue of people to the right as Trevor walked up to Lia and handed her the sword in his left hand, then he said “Don’t move until I say so.”
As she took it, she could feel the sword’s weight, length and center of gravity. She concentrated on the feeling of the first sword she ever held, while Trevor took a step backwards, creating a distance between them of about 30 cm.
Lia shifted her line of sight once again on Trevor, who, once he saw that her curiosity was sated, used as much force as he could to take a step ahead with as much speed as he could muster in those 30 centimeters.
She observed, considered and understood the situation she was in.
‘He’s going to stop.’
She pointed her katana down as he swung his at her.
Her eyes connected with Trevor’s.
At 3 centimeters from her neck, the sword stopped. Trevor relaxed his body, turned around and began walking away.
“Ahahah, she got too scared to move!”
A boy in the right row commented, making Abigail glare at him. Trevor instead shook his head.
“She understood that I would stop, and even before that she had not even one hint of fear in her eye.”
The more experienced people in the room slightly nodded and Trevor turned around, the distance between them was now 2 meters.
“Your turn Lia. Try to attack me with all you have.”