Chapter 56: Brawl
“How did you know that Sunno wasn’t born here, Nisha? You can tell me, I promise I won’t spill the beans.”
Walking side by side, Aubrey and Nisha were visiting the training grounds.
The court was stretching as far as the guild building was wide, chalk circles were spread throughout the place, some occupied by sparring adventurers.
“Someone told you about him?”
Refusing to drop the matter, the counter girl continued to pester her companion to share her secret.
“I had never heard of Sunno before coming here.
Hmm, how should I explain it? Do you know how big-game hunting works?”
Being answered by a question seemed to surprise Aubrey, but she played along in hope that she would soon get her answer.
“No, I don’t. Have you done it before?”
I can’t exactly tell her that I was the big game, can I?
“Yes, and it works like this: First you have to hunt down a small animal. A deer, a rabbit, anything works. You remove the innards of the first game and lay them in a clearing.
The smell of blood soon will attract a bigger prey. Lured by the smell, it will pounce on the bait right away, that’s the moment when you strike.
Someone with a little hunting experience will still be suspicious confronted with something too obvious, because hunters know, humans and elves aren’t the only ones that trick others.
If you don’t want to turn from the hunter into the prey, you always have to pay close attention to your surroundings.
Sunno is perspiring a lot, but the temperature is quite low this morning. No one would break out in a sweat in such a situation, unless used to a much colder climate.
Also, when he said he was proficient in throwing axes and rather good with a bow, it became pretty clear to me that he’s a hunter.”
Aubrey visibly admired the young dragon more and more the further she progressed in her explanation.
“His sturdy stature coupled with my grandfather’s stories were enough for me to make a guess.”
“I now see you with new eyes, you’re a worthy adventurer, Nisha, sorry for doubting you. I’d never noticed you were that… special.
You know, Sunno and I are fairly close actually, when I was training to be an adventurer I was often coming to him, asking for pointers. He’s even among the few allowed to call me Brey.
I’d have never guessed he wasn’t born in [Thurgau], I thought his figure came with his intense training…”
She paused, an expression of both vexation and interest on her face.
“Are there really monsters baiting humans to kill them?”
She looked expectantly at Nisha, waiting for a fantastic and heroic tale she knew wouldn’t come, the world was built on bones and irrigated with blood after all.
“There was a bird, large, with spikes on its wings.
It had a nasty habit of spearing it’s half-dead preys on large wooden stakes near its hunting grounds, to attract other monsters with their smell. If they were still alive, it was even better, they could scream.
Whenever something tried to approach the meat, the monster would sweep out of the sky and skewer the new meat. Eat the old one or watch it die.
It was really hard to take care of that creature.”
Thinking back on the aerial duel between Little Flame and the predator, Nisha didn’t notice Aubrey’s eyes widen.
“Wow, I heard of that bird! It’s called [Shrike Vulture], but there’s several similar kinds of this bird with different ranks, I can’t be sure.
And you say you won against one?! They are all at least at the B Class!”
Damn, I made a mistake.
There was a slight pause in the conversation, as the elvish girl was trying to figure out how to get out of her predicament.
Aubrey’s tone had made it pretty clear that a being in the B class was far too strong for her to defeat.
Finally, the former dragon had a sudden flash of inspiration.
“Ah, no, it’s not like that, the bird was continuously stealing our [Sapphire Cows], so my grandpa who went to deal with it, he just took me along because I had begged him to allow me to watch.
The monster was really strong. My grandpa was stronger.”
Nisha was about to tell her more stories, talking about Eldrin was always cheering her up now, when another voice disrupted their conversation.
“Brey! Hey, Brey!
Unable to ignore the pestering voice any longer, Aubrey turned around to face the voice’s owner, exasperated.
“What do you want, Kartoff? I’m working right now, can’t you see I’m showing the Guild to someone? I have no time to deal with you.”
The annoying pest stood in one of the battle stages, holding a large sword and a shield, his opponent following the exchange.
Upon hearing her response, the young man simply laughed, and Nisha felt a shiver going down her spine, the snicker felt utterly malevolent.
The other fighter moved towards three of his and Kartoff’s friends sitting nearby on a bench, Nisha recognized the attire one of them was wearing, the same as the priests’ back in the temple, the second one had a bow on his back and the third one a staff.
“Come on, Brey, you’re always so serious. Just come with me and have some fun, we’re going to be a super famous team soon, you better make a good impression on us now.
Ben promised me that when I reach the third aura rank, he’ll take us with him on the next expedition, the guys are just waiting for me now.
Come, take a break with us.”
It was almost an order. His buddies had disgusting smirks painted on their faces.
“We’re not close enough for you to call me Brey, so stop addressing me that way.
I’m showing the training grounds to Nisha , we’re looking for someone to spar with her, so I got no time to spare for you now, not that I would spare some later.”
Coldly speaking those words to her unwanted admirer, Aubrey took the matter for settled.
“If it’s a sparring match, I don’t mind playing with the newbie.
Hmm… It’s no fun if there’s nothing at stake. How about this: If I win, you have to go on a date with me.
Shayne, mind moving for a few seconds? I have a date to win.”
Irate by the nonsensical suggestion, the counter girl was about to speak her mind, when Nisha tugged her sleeves.
“Please let me handle this.”
Without saying anything else to her guide, the elvish girl entered the chalk ring, leaving a confused Aubrey behind.
“You say you want to challenge me, huh? I’m afraid you’re far too weak.”
By speaking such arrogant words, Nisha was obviously looking down on him, although she was physically frail.
Kartoff’s eyes dangerously narrowed.
“Little girl, don’t overestimate yourself. I’m already an E rank adventurer, do you know how long it took me to get there?
Go back to your parents before I hurt you, this is between Brey and me.”
Drawing the shorter of her daggers, Nisha leisurely strolled to the place where the young man’s adversary had been, squeezing her lips in a mocking fashion.
“E? I haven’t even been a guild member for a whole day and I’m already E rank.
With that kind of performance you dare think you’d be man enough to even take Aubrey out on a date?”
The sharp remark seemed to be too much for Kartoff to bear, he raised his sword, readied his shield and charged at Nisha roaring his intentions towards the little girl once he would have caught her.
Too easy. Monsters are the same, provoke them a bit and they come rushing to die in my arms.
Even at the first rank, Nisha could take care of third ranked monsters and her current enemy had yet to reach that level, he was only at the peak of the second rank.
In her eyes, the young man was running comically slow, she had more than enough time to react.
Stepping aside, she ducked into the range of the shield, avoiding the sword so close that the air pressure from the strike blew her hair away.
Getting behind Kartoff, Nisha wanted to counter attack, however she was too short to reach her foe without jumping on him.
With a powerful kick to the back of his knees, Nisha sent the attacker tumbling to his knees, she then grabbed his neck, placing her dagger on his throat.
Unfortunately she wasn’t used to the weight of her new weapon and cut deeper than she intended, the tip of the blade penetrated into his skin, and a small stream of blood flowed to the ground.
The whole exchange had ended in a single swift move, all spectators were staring at Nisha, speechless.
The young man’s face was white as a sheet, he was keenly aware that his life was hanging by a silken thread, the blood staining his shirt reminding him grimly that a single twitch of Nisha’s hand would end his life.
“Hey, Kart, stop messing around. Get up and fight.”
The man with the greatsword shouted at his friend, unable to accept the outcome of the match.
A single sidestep, a single kick, a single thrust was all it had taken Nisha to defeat Kartoff, and he was now at her mercy, hesitating to even breathe as it sent waves of pain in his body.
I literally have him by the neck now.
The first time she had seen swords, she had guessed that they were iron fangs humans carried around because their own teeth were too tiny. Now, she was using that kind of fang to keep her prey in check.
Excitement stormed through Nisha’s veins, despite the year spent on her education and manners, fighting was the only thing that could make her lose herself to that point.
She was finally a predator again!
Aubrey was cheering for her, delighted to see her friend subdue an annoying admirer of hers.
Nisha loved challenges like this, she liked to crush monsters and their look when they acknowledged her strength.
Civilization had always been nothing but a thin layer spread above man’s beastly nature – even more so for the emperors among beasts, dragons, and bloodlust was drawing it out.
Although she was ecstatic about her first victory since [Blackquarry], Nisha was remaining cool-headed, she had to figure out how she should resolve the situation, she had after all indeed provoked the other party and made him underestimate her.
The elvish girl didn’t care about the impression she was leaving on such persons, but Aubrey was working at the Guild and for her sake the little girl should try to clean up her own mess.
The counter girl’s cheers suddenly became a scream, another loud yell partly covering it.
“Nisha! Watch out!”
“B*tch, I said get away from him!”
Approaching her with his greatsword ready, the large man had been visible all along in Nisha’s [Spirit Sight], she couldn’t imagine him acting so soon and it had been her blunder. Pondering on the right thing to do, she had simply lost track of him.
The blunt side of the greatsword hit her, barely hindered by her leather armor, sending her flying.
For a moment, she felt a resistance on her dagger as it ripped through flesh, before watching the world disappear in a whirl of colours, her body eventually colliding with the ground, a few paces away from the chalk circle.
Luckily her leather armor had held up, the elvish girl probed herself quickly with her hands: no cuts, breathing had become painful.
Her hands were empty, the short dagger must have had flown somewhere.
Somehow the cries didn’t quiet down, so Nisha sat up and studied the scene.
The greatsword wielder was staring in disbelief at his party member, who looked horrified as blood was bubbling out of the gruesome cut on his throat, opened when the small girl had been smashed away.
“Stefan! Don’t stand there like an oaf! Heal him!”
Clad in a dark robe, one of the dying man’s companions pushed the other guy, this one wearing priest’s clothes, towards the injured, still somehow maintaining a bit of his calm despite his obvious terror.
“I don’t know… I don’t know if I can heal him! I’m not strong enough for a wound of that degree!”
Clearly panicked, the healer slumped down next to Kartoff.
“Just do whatever you can! I’ll go get the Training Hall’s priest!”
Dashing like a madman towards a corner of the courtyard, there was a short period of profound silence in the chalk circle, only disturbed by Kartoff’s groans.
The priest recovered first, he pressed his hands on the wound to stop the torrent of blood and started praying.
“You! This is all your fault!”
Barking at Nisha, the giant with the greatsword readied his weapon and rushed at her, this time aiming for the sharp edge to split her head apart from her neck.
Realizing that this was no longer a spar and that her life was at stake, Nisha pulled out the long dagger from her waist, the small flame in her core setting her blood on fire.
Even though she managed to defend herself in time, the impact threw her back a step. The clash of a dagger and a greatsword was simply not in the dagger’s favor.
Not letting her a second to rest, the second and the third blow rained down on her, each pushing her back.
The party didn’t lie, Kartoff was weaker than the greatsword wielder – still, Nisha had been able to deal with creatures at the third rank before, and her current opponent certainly didn’t exceed the limits of her abilities.
It was quite the challenge to deal with him, but it was still possible to deflect the heavy blows, by stepping back a bit to reduce the brunt of them.
Sadly the archer of the group was starting to shake off his stupor, Nisha could detect him ready his bow with her [Spirit Sight].
The clash with the first man had not lasted a minute, yet a second person was about to enter the fray.
Thinking fervently about a way to help the elvish girl, Aubrey sprinted to the hall master, screaming loudly.
“Sunno! Sunno! We need help! Over here!”
Aware that time was running out, the dragon did what she was best at.
Instead of enemies, there were now preys attacking her.
An arrow flew by her, narrowly missing her head.
She knew she would only have one chance to end the conflict if she wanted to deal with both adversaries at the same time.
Borrowing the power of her runes, a shard of pure darkness took shape in her empty hand while a thin sheet of black light was enveloping the dagger.
The sword wielder finally acknowledged that she was stronger than expected and used a battle skill, and covered his weapon in aura before charging; at the same time the archer had prepared another arrow.
Now it’s do or die.
Bursting into motion, Nisha’s fire enhanced limbs took off, much faster than in the attacker’s expectation. The dark blade in her hand was thrown, targeting the archer who gawked at the foreign projectile in disbelief, in the meantime the dragon clashed with the swordsman for a second and passed by him, before coming to a stop.
Behind her, three things fell to the ground in a single thump; Nisha didn’t have to turn around to know what it was. Her aim had been slightly off target, but it had been enough.