And so, after seven more days, for a total of fourteen days since the mentorship began, Servi was once again standing in the non-existent ring. She had her shield and her sword from the weapon shelf, but also something else. This being the third time sparring, Fisher allowed the use of Rank 10 skills.
As Servi waited for the starting signal, her mind raced back to the events of the previous six days.
After arriving at the headquarters, she went to the training room like usual. It was mainly a standard affair. Running, crouching, sit-ups and push-ups. But after around two hours, Fisher suddenly stopped them.
“Listen up and follow!” He yelled as he walked over to a shadowed area of the grassy field. Looking up, Servi could see that the ceiling wasn't exactly all glass like she believed it to be. Some spots were covered in a silvery material, but those modifications had to have been constructed recently. Regardless, there were now numerous shadowy spots on the grassy area. “Take a seat! We're going to learn about shield techniques and what to do when certain circumstances show themselves!”
Fisher then began to explain that while being a tank was about taking the hits, there was actually far more to it.
“The way you move, breathe, duck and dodge all have to do with tanking. For example, Riki!”
“Aye?” He said.
“If fighting a troll or an ogre, and you see an attack coming, what would you do?”
“Roll or dodge out of the way.”
“Right! A troll is big, and an ogre is even bigger. Feral, what would you do?”
The three meter tall Kobold in question growled and spoke. “I take it head on. The might of a Kobold is nothing to scoff at.”
“You’re right. The physical strength of a Kobold is among the highest of those who can use skills. And so, you would be right to take it. Anyone else would have to dodge. Don’t try to be a hero. A tank needs to keep the attention of the enemy in front of them. If you go down, then it’s pretty much over. But there are things even a Kobold cannot block. Some people think tanks are stupid or brain dead for taking hit after hit, but they are the first line of defense. You need to have the right judgement in you want to be a proper tank.”
Goddamn it, I can’t believe I’m complementing them. Come on Fisher…. And so, Fisher's mental state began to change ever so slightly. The Demis he hated so much were growing right before him.
But there one was question that ran unconsciously ran through his mind. Will the change be permanent?
I know they didn’t do it. Hell, that was ten years ago. But something like that is not something I can forgive so easily. I couldn't then in the past, and I can't now.
For the rest of that day, and following six or so days, the brutal physical training they had to endure the past week was cut down. Though it did not disappear.
From training in the morning for a few hours to listening to Fisher's lectures, a certain Kobold’s thoughts began to change.
Perhaps my thoughts about the Justice Captain have been wrong. I never knew about these strategies…
As a Kobold, Feral was proud of his massive arms, thick legs and tough body. But honestly, he wasn’t that smart. In fact, the average intelligence of a Kobold was quite a bit lower than the average of any of the other races capable of using skills. Even so, Feral was devoted to becoming a powerful warrior that was deserving of Rank 1.
Fisher, at some point of the lectures during the six days, had a shield with him. He picked volunteers from the crowd and preformed some shield techniques that he never saw when he saw when the six sparred.
He told them that the shield can be used to attack, and demonstrated by turning his hand so that its flat surface was up.
“If you see a chance to strike, then you can attack this way by punching. Some even choose to sharpen the edge of their shield so they can attack like this. Just remember that whatever modifications you do your shield, like adding a spike or covering it in oil, is worthless if you drop it. Under no circumstances should you drop your shield, but if you do, you’d best get it back ASAP.”
So after lecturing on shield techniques, Fisher went over the list of Rank 10 skills that should be learned first. He did this everyday, even though he was repeating himself.
I’ll say it as many times as I need to. Skills are the one thing that allows the races to keep up with monsters.
“Protection is obviously a given. Next up is both Thunder Snap and Lucem. Those three are the main skills. Decoy is good, and very useful, but it can be dangerous. For example, if you use it in the wrong moment, like in a cramped cave, then there's a chance your party could be overrun by monsters. Monsters that you didn't even know lived there. By the time you reach Rank 9, you should have a good idea on how you want to tank. Remember, everyone has their own style. Some prefer to be an evasion tank with a small shield, using their natural speed to their advantage, and others prefer to be a standing pillar with a heavy shield while reinforced with defensive skills. I can teach the basics and train your bodies, but I can’t do anything else. What I can say is this: once you can chant and block, then you’re already ahead of the game. That should one of the first things to learn."
Now back to the present. Servi was in the ring and she had her shield in her hand. Skills were allowed, obviously restricted to Rank 10, with the exception of Protection. Fisher had told them that they needed to fight without relying on Protection. He said it wouldn't always be there to save them, and there will be times in which they will need to defend against a monster without a tank's most important skill backing them up.
“Now then, Desperado, go in the ring.” Said Fisher. The Koena did what he was told. He had his black kite shield and a wooden club.
This should be easy. Our Lucem and Thunder Snap should be more powerful than anything he can muster. Said Itarr.
The moment Fisher stomped his foot, Servi held her shield and began to walk forward. She chanted quietly, even though she didn’t need to, and held it. This was called pre-casting, and Servi decided to use it, but she did so incorrectly. The moment she was a meter or so away, Desperado’s black scaley mouth began to move. It seemed he didn’t know anything about the technique So, she finished the chant and used Thunder Snap.
Was that pre-casting? No, it wasn't. She went about it all wrong, and she used the wrong chant. Thought Fisher, as he read her lips. Due to her inexperience in using skills the normal way, Servi had messed up. She tried to copy what Momo did when they were in the sewers two weeks ago, and she failed. But her skill still went off. Usually when a skill chant is interrupted, or is said wrong, the skill just doesn't work. The energy that was collected just evaporates. Nothing happens, and the user is free to try again. However, this didn't go unnoticed by Fisher, who then realized that Servi was far stronger than what she led on.
There's no use in bringing it up now, even though what she did was incredible. I'll just have to keep an eye on her.
A powerful crack rang out where she snapped her fingers, which was right in front of her. It seemed he didn’t expect it. The Koena flinched hard and Servi took that moment to push him.
She was stronger and a moment later, he was on the ground with a sword to his neck.
Of course, she won the rest of her fights, except one, that way. Even if Riki was the one who got off a Lucem first, Servi’s eyes instantly adjusted to the intense blast of light, and she saw the axe swipe coming. Even if her eyes didn’t automatically adjust, she could rely on her afterimages. The next moment, Servi let off her own Lucem, which was more powerful. The Dwarf didn’t expect Servi to have the calmness to reply with a skill of her own, and he didn’t have to time close his eyes. He took the full brunt of it and that’s what led to his defeat. He couldn’t see and he panicked.
Even though the four of them knew the sharp noise and bright lights were coming, they were still only Rank 10. One: they couldn’t recover that fast from being temporary cut off from one of their five senses. Two: it’s hard to fight against the feeling of flinching when hearing a loud noise. And Servi knew that. Her True Immortality allowed her to disregard that feeling. That was really why she won each fight. She had a vast overwhelming advantage.
But then it came to her vs Feral. Out of the six of them, he and Servi were the only two to be unblessed. Feral didn’t see it as a weakness, but as a challenge. One to be overcome. Sure, he was at a disadvantage, but he knew it made victory all the more sweeter.
“Servi, you can’t win physically, but let’s see if the use of skills are enough to overcome that gap. Start!” Said Fisher, who then stomped his foot.
This time, Servi was more determined that ever to win, but she didn’t know how. As she watched Feral fight against the other four, they couldn’t chant fast enough. Feral rushed up and either attacked with his tail or shield. Speaking of attacking, not once did he actually use a skill. He couldn’t. He had joined Warden because of the mentorship, and thus he didn’t have any Potential saved up. But he relished the challenge of being the underdog.
She quickly began chanting and smiled. Just like before, Feral charged in. His giant body stomping towards a lone girl was something to behold. If someone didn’t know what was going on, then it looked like an innocent young Human was about to be trampled by a vicious Kobold. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
She paused during her chanting and waited. What she did next depended on his actions. Fortunately for her, he chose to stop and spun around. She waited a bit longer to make sure it wasn’t a fake, but she still almost got hit. When it came to judging speed and distances on her own, she was pathetic.
I really did rely on that skill. I wonder if I’ll get to a point where I can fight without it.
During the jump over his tail, she extended her left arm far in front of her and used Thunder Snap. Even though he was a mighty lad, Feral was taken back. His hands quickly retreated to his ears and Servi finally had a chance to attack.
Once landing, she took off speeding around Feral until she was behind him. Then she drew her sword and slammed the flat edge of the blade into the back of his knee. Hearing a dull thunking noise, she increased her power as Feral began to get his hearing back. He could have, and later realized he should’ve, used his tail or even his arms to flail around. But he didn’t think of it.
Feral had lived a life of being strong and durable. Most Kobolds were, but even though he knew humility, like when he realized he could learn from the Justice Captain, that disappeared in battle. He wanted a good fight. Unfortunately, that thrill of a wanting to fight dulled his common sense. That’s why he just stood there in pain covering his ears. There was no way for him to guard against it since he thought his speed and tail would be enough to win in the first few seconds. After all, it worked for him every other time, so why not now?
But when Servi realized her sword wasn’t cutting it, she did what Fisher had told her. Sheathing her sword in the shield, she rotated her hand until its flat, evil-like surface was pointing up. But then she realized something, and she un-rotated her hand. She knew she didn’t have a lot of time, so she started to prepare another chant. This time, it was for Lucem.
Fisher couldn’t believe it. Again, he was stupefied. He saw Servi actually grab onto to Feral’s shield, which wasn’t flat and smooth. It was rugged and ugly, with a few small blemishes and cracks that were just big enough to act as handholds. And the crazy girl climbed up until her face was right in front of him.
Feral couldn’t tell anyone was climbing, so he was shocked out of his heart when he realized it wasn’t the red sun he saw. It was eyes. The two red eyes of Servi, the Human girl, who actually managed to lift his shield.
“Lucem.” Her cute mouth spoke to say one word, and one word only. A tremendous flash of light appeared right in front of them, and both were blinded. Servi hopped down from the shield, her eyes already healed, and with haste, made her way to his backside.
This was when she rotated her arm so that her shield was flat side up, and punched his legs.
“GAAH!!” Roared the Koena. It was filled with agony and pain. Servi's shield's edge wasn’t sharpened, but it cut better than she expected it too. Sure, she should’ve done this earlier with her sword, cutting instead of using the flat edge, but she decided against it. Something in her mind told her to do it this way, and she felt like she couldn't go against it. Still, her shield penetrated through his scaley furry skin and found red gold.
“Now, when fighting a larger opponent, go for the legs and knee. If you, as the tank, can incapacitate an opponent, then congratulations, you’re actually pretty fucking good. But don’t ever risk it if you can help it. Trust in your party to take out the enemies, and they will trust you to keep them safe.” Said Fisher, a few days ago when Rakkire asked about taking down something large. He kept stealing glances at Feral when Fisher answered him.
A large being like a Kobold needed a lot of strength in his legs to support his large weight. And when one was damaged, he had to shift the weight to his other leg. That, coupled with the fact he was blind and his dulled common sense in the heat of battle, was why he eventually lost a few seconds later.
Servi continued to stab her shield into his legs and knees, and then she heard a pop. Next moment, the three meter tall beast fell to the ground, groaning in pain. His large shield fell with him, landing beside its wielder.
Congratulations! Itarr said, cheerfully. She was the only one who spoke. The five watching just stared with their jaws opened. Silverado was the first to speak.
“Did you really climb that shield?!”
“No, it’s not. Riki, that's what we should’ve done. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it!” Rakkire said to his cousin.
“That has to be the craziest thing I’ve seen. It was like watching a little squirrel climb a tree!” Noted Desperado.
“Medic!!” Yelled Fisher. He had been watching with careful eyes. Two young Humans wearing red uniform with a white cross rushed to the fallen Kobold. As they were healing him, he talked to the girl.
“Why did you do that?”
“Because I needed to get close to use Lucem. It works the closer you are to the target’s eyes, right? I was lucky Thunder Snap actually worked. If that didn’t, then I would’ve lost. But why didn’t he use his tail? Even if he was disoriented, he still could’ve won.” Servi said what everyone was thinking about.
“I see. I got to say, I never seen something like that before. As a fighter, you pass. But as a tank, you fail. He was disoriented after the Thunder Snap, and you could’ve ended it then and there with your sword, but you had to go use Lucem and your shield, even knowing he might've attacked with his tail the second time.”
“Servi…” Came a growling voice. Feral had a large white bandage around both of his knees, but he was walking fine. Those medics must’ve had access to powerful healing skills. “That was the first time I've ever lost to a Human.”
“Explain why you didn't use your tail when you could’ve won?” Demanded Fisher. “You better not have went easy on her!”
“I did no such thing. Whenever I enter battle, that’s all I can think about. I must admit, I believe it to be a weakness. I realize now I should’ve used my tail, but I was distracted by the pain in my ears and eyes.” Admitted Feral. He hated how naïve he was. He didn’t dare think he could to lose to no one but another Kobold.
“That’s why this program exists.” Fisher turned around to and faced the rest. “This entire thing is to build your confidence and give you the experience so that when you go out into the field and start taking or resume taking quests, you’re more prepared. It’s so that things like this are less common! Everyone here is weak. That’s a fact. You’re only Rank 10. But that’s fine. Every one starts off weak and grows into their own strength.”
Compared to now, Fisher was like a saint. The first few days was filled with nothing more than him insulting everyone and calling them maggots. He did it for a reason, though. He wanted to break his mentees at their core and rebuild them up. But was that the only reason? Maybe somewhere along the line, and as the days passed, there was a hole in his heart and mind that realized something? Perhaps that realization, as much as he hated it, was something he couldn’t really keep inside. But he’d rather die before he ever admitted it. He was weak, and not the strong man that everyone believed him to be.
Ha, I guess that’s why I’m weak too. Dammit Fisher, you fool!
Feral ended up with a damaged knee that would be healed by just a bit of rest, so he left right after Fisher dismissed them. Servi went to apologize, but was stopped by Silverado, of all people. She saw the Kobold disappear as he turned around and corner. She and the rest of the four were in the training field. Fisher had already left as well.
“Don’t feel bad. Kobolds live for war and battle. And to best one in physical combat is not something for them to be upset about. They value strength, and you showed that today. You don’t want to disrespect him by apologizing, do you?” His silver scales shined in the sunlight. He crackled a smile and Servi returned it.
“Thanks. I gotta admit, I don’t really know all that about their culture.”
Maybe this could be the chance for me to learn more?
“Aye. For Kobolds, you just gotta smack them around a little. Strength is what they value above all else.” Added Riki.
“Don’t be racist, cousin. Some of them don’t like to fight all that much.” His cousin said, further adding on.
“Speaking of fighting, I thought a Kobold was a shoe-in to win the tournament. But maybe not…” Desperado said.
“It sounds like you’re planning to lose.” Said Servi.
“It’s not that. You’ve seen how strong Kobolds are. I don’t want to be rude, but if he would’ve remembered he had a tail, you would've lost.”
“You got me there.” Servi chuckled a little bit.
“Still, climbing his shield that's nearly as tall as he is AND using Lucem?! You’re one brave Human.”
“So listen, the four of us were thinking about getting some dinner later on. You’re more than welcome to join us.” Said Silverado, talking after Desperado. The other three nodded.
Servi was kind of conflicted. It wasn’t as if she didn’t want to go, she did, but her mind immediately went to Momo. And that got her thinking.
“I’d like too, but I told my party member, Momo, that we’d have dinner together night. Besides, you didn’t ask Feral?”
“We did, but he just grunted and walked off. But you’re more than welcome to invite this Momo and anyone else.”
Ah, he might have to work. Remember? He works at that Madam Canary's Sweetie Tweety. Said Itarr.
“Sure, I’ll ask her. Where were you meeting at?”
“Here, actually. There’s a good steak house that’s about a fifteen minute walk here. Since we’re all mentees and comrades, I was thinking we could all go together.”
Well, I don’t really see anything wrong with that. And it might be nice. Enjoying a dinner with some friends I’ve grown to like sounds like a nice way to end the day.
“Sounds good. So what time?”
“7:30. Is that fine with you?” Asked Riki. “It’s a little bit pass 4:40, so that’s a little less than three hours.”
“It sounds fine with me. I’ll see you guys later.”
Servi walked towards the double set of doors waving to her friends. Yes, to her friends. After working hard with them for fourteen days, and even seeing their low points where they wanted to give up, she actually did feel a sort of kinship with them.
But why is my heart uneasy? Do I really deserve to have friends and to be happy after I’d taken so many lives? As she walked home to the Warden office, passing by throngs of people of all different races and colors, it reminded her of seeing all those slaves locked away in a dank underground cell.
I did the right thing. I know I did. If I didn’t, then I’m just as bad as them. Or am I even worse? She felt a small tinge of pain in her head before suddenly blinking a few times.
I feel fine now. I’m not on my period, am I? Can that even happen since I’m immortal? It causes pain, so it shouldn’t. But why does my mood flip flop like a pancake every morning?
She felt a small pain again, in her head, and she smiled. I shouldn’t worry about that. She picked her brisk walk into a small jog. Her green cape attached to her leather armor fluttering in the wind with her black hair. Two red eyes stared straight ahead.
Probably about fifty or so minutes later, Servi was sitting on the bench outside her room. She was wearing a yellow tank top, a thin black jacket sewed with a orange pattern, black pants that came to about three-quarters down her legs and black shoes with white socks. It was modest, but sleek and cute. When she put it on, she actually did a little twirl and giggled when she saw herself in the mirror she took out from her ring.
She was silently talking to Itarr when she heard the very familiar voice of her best friend, and a very not-so-familiar voice. From the distance, she saw the pink hair she knew so well, as well as blond hair she didn’t know.
“And that’s her. Hey, Servi!” Half said and half yelled Momo. She was waving to her friend and Servi waved back. She got up and walked over to them.
“Servi, this is Srassa. Srassa, this my party member, Servi.”
Servi stuck out her hand to the girl in front of her. Unlike Momo, she wasn’t wearing her armor. It was a floral sundress that came down to right below her knees. Her blond hair was long, but it, and the green bow in it, added to her overall charm. Her green eyes matched the light green bra, whose left strap peeked out just a little bit. She was bustier than Momo, but smaller than Servi. On her feet, she wore sandals that had quite a few straps around her ankle and legs. Servi later found out from Momo that they were called gladiator sandals. A brown purse was gripped tightly in her hands. Even Servi could see that she was nervous.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Servi.”
The girl, Srassa, stuck her hand out as well. “It’s a pleasure.”
“So Servi, what are you all dressed up for?” Said Momo. She gestured over to a small table and the three sat down.
“The other people I’m training with asked me out for dinner tonight. I thought we’d go and have some fun. They said if I knew people who wanted to go, I should ask them. So, Momo, Srassa, want to come with us?”
Me? We just met and you’re already inviting me out to dinner? Momo was right about you.
"That’s sounds fine to me. Srassa, do you want to come with dinner with us?” Asked Momo. Her pink tail lightly swayed from side to side as she awaited an answer.
“Umm.. I’m fine with going, but can I ask where?” Squeaked Srassa. She reminded Servi of Momo.
“There’s this steak place that’s nearby. We were meeting at 7:30 at the guard’s headquarters, then walking over together.”
“Okay. If you’ll have me, I’d like to join you all.” Srassa did a little curtsy.
Momo must’ve seen the confusion in Servi’s eyes and she explained. “Srassa’s a noble. Apparently that’s something they do.” During the walk from her house to the Warden office, Srassa answered Momo’s question about the nobility. The curtsy was one of them.
“Oh, I’m sorry if it was inappropriate.” Srassa quickly added, but Servi shook her head.
“Nah, it wasn't inappropriate. But we have some time to waste before we have to leave.”
Srassa looked at the cute pocket watch she pulled from her purse. It was black and had a white cat on the front. “It’s 5:34. What time are we leaving here?”
“Hmm.. it’s a bit of a walk to the headquarters, so how about 6:10?” Even if we get there early, we shouldn’t have to wait long.”
“Okay.” She replied.
Momo spoke up. “If that's the case, I’m gonna go change and take a shower, okay? I’ll be back soon.”
The Singi turned around and almost sped up the steps to her room. Servi was happy that Momo was excited. She really was. And unlike last time, where she almost started crying because she was afraid of Momo leaving her, her mind didn’t even wander over to the sadness. She felt perfectly happy.
And so Servi and Srassa had an, admittedly, awkward conversation at first, but it grew organically to the point where both of them felt calm.
Sometime later, and unbeknownst to them, Momo was actually watching from the stairs with a smile. She was a bit nervous about introducing Srassa to her friend.
It was the very first time I actually had someone to introduce to someone else. Oh, they look like they’re getting along so well!
Momo stopped hiding and came down to meet them. She was wearing that one outfit with the black suspenders, that she wore when she went to get chocolate with Servi, and looked as cute as a button.
“Wow, that looks good!” Excitedly spoke Srassa.
“Thanks! So I think we got some time left, so why don’t we just chat?” Momo bashfully smiled at her new friend and she was beaming on the inside, She didn't do a good job of hiding it.
Oh boy, chatting with a couple of friends! Oh grandpa, I wish you could see me now!!
And so, for a little bit over thirty minutes, the three friends talked about their mentors and the training they’re doing. All the while, Srassa, Momo, and Servi had pleasant smiles on their face.
Just because someone looks different, like having a tail or scales, doesn’t mean the emotions they feel are any less real or valuable. And for Srassa, who, unfortunately, grew up without many friends, she was absolutely beyond happy. Her situation was a bit like Momo’s, but she had the luxury of money and a supportive family. She envied Momo, in a way, and wanted a close friend to talk to. She sort of thought that maybe Momo would be that friend. She even thought that maybe they could be that friend to each other, but she became slightly sad when she realized that Servi was that friend to Momo.
Maybe..... if possible.... we could be that friend to each other? The three of us?