Соловьев Валентин Алексеевич: другие произведения.

Gamer's Manual, chapter 6 (09.03.2015)

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Chapter 6. Random Encounters / New Acquaintance

- Fancy meeting you here. What are the odds?

- You are the only one I really didn't want to meet, so it was 100 %

  

- Morning has come, Master.

Again? I thought I had won. I killed a person. I was nearly killed. I thought that I had been moved to medical chamber. What did they do with other bodies? I actually killed two of them. Unexpectedly, it wasn't hard. The mage was actually terrified of me. Am I scary? I didn"t do anything. I was only trying to survive...

I have so many thoughts swirling in my head that I can"t concentrate on any one of them. Slowly, as I begin to organise my thoughts, unrelated and unimportant ones fade away, bringing to my attention issues that bother me.

I killed a person. - I didn"t have a choice.

I killed two people. - It was either me or them.

It was easy. - I had to do it.

I will kill again to survive. I didn"t ask to be here.

This just feels too real. This resembles a game too much.

What bothers me most is not the fact of me killing somebody. It"s exactly the opposite. I had to do it in order to survive. I know that I should be bothered by that fact, but I don"t feel anything about it. The guilt of not feeling anything about killing is the only emotion I feel right now.

Rue is hovering before me expectantly, as if she waits to tell me something. Does she want me to go to the hall to listen to the announcement? So I died after all. Pretty anticlimactic. Though, I wonder how. I was pretty sure I was getting medical treatment. Well, at least I know that there is a way for me to survive the fight. I just need to rest a bit. The fight was exhausting both mentally and physically.

- I have to inform Master that the duel will start in two hours.

Yeah, yeah. Go down in the hall and... Wait, what?

- What duel are you talking about?

- The preliminary round was held to determine sixty four champions worthy of attending the main tournament. Since Master has survived the preliminary round, he is now to attend the first round.

- Wait, wait, wait! I"m confused. Let"s start from the beginning. Did I win the preliminary round?

- That is correct, Master.

- And the next round starts in two hours, is that so?

- That is also correct, Master.

- But there was supposed to be a day-long break. Unless... How much time did I spend here?

- Master has been sleeping here since the match that has been held yesterday.

I have so many conflicting feelings, that I can"t properly describe my mental state right now. Joy of victory, anguish at killing, relief of survival, grievance at not getting time to rest properly, surprise at having to fight right now, panic at not having time left, fear of dying in this fight... All these coalesce into one simple phrase:

- What the hell!?

- Master?

- Sorry, I"m just confused... So I have two hours before next round?

- One hour and forty minutes to be exact.

- But I"m injured. You said that I can abstain from the tournament in case of serious injury.

- All of your physical injuries were cured. It appears you slept for the day due to mental fatigue.

I didn"t really expect it to work, but had to try. It"s pity that i missed that one day, but there is no real reason to panic either.

- Then I have only two questions left for now: where are my clothes and how do I get breakfast here?

One and a half hour later I am standing at the training hall entrance and looking at my upcoming opponent. Short and skinny, Asian face, short brownish-grey hair and brown eyes. Her face is cute, but there is nothing to look at other than that. Though her clothes certainly do capture attention.White T-shirt and dark-blue jeans couldn"t really be considered abnormal if not for their state. They are covered in stitches. It feels as though his clothes were shredded apart, sewn together and this process was repeated several times. I"m not actually sure whether there is more cloth or stitches in those clothes. Even second-hand shops would be ashamed to sell something like that.

By the way, is this some kind of tradition to stay silent or is he just not talkative? Though, to be honest, there isn"t anything to talk about. We have only one common topic: "Nice to meet you, would you be so kind and let me kill you?", which is really not a good way to start a conversation. In the end, for the next ten minutes we just stood and eyed each other curiously.

Afterward both of us enter the teleportation circle. This time around the arena seems to be the desert oasis. Crescent-shaped lake that has green bushes and forest growing around it. Well, at least finding each other shouldn"t pose too big of a problem. Our starting positions are at the tips of the crescent. I don"t see how large the distance is, but if I estimate by the size of the trees on the map, then I don"t think that the crescent of the lake is more than one hundred meters in diameter.

As I wait for countdown to finish, I take out the Chlymea and turn it into the sword.

- Three... Two... One...

I appear at the edge of the oasis, where the lake, the forest and the desert intersect. Main question is do I go straight or along the lake? The probability of getting ambushed persists no matter what I choose, so this means it is more about the choice of terrain where I want to fight. Edge of the lake or the forest? There are more obstacles in the forest so it will be easier to hide, but harder to dodge. Considering that I don"t have a full handle on my "Flash Step", I need an open area and preferably something to cushion my landing. Bushes might cushion it, but hitting the tree will return me to square one. Additionally, hitting with the projectiles, that I stole in last round, will be easier in an open area. The conclusion is that fighting at the edge of the lake will be more advantageous for me.

I start walking along the outer edge of the crescent-shaped lake. This way there is a lake between me and the forest and I won"t get ambushed. As I walk, I notice that the air is quite dry. I am beginning to get thirsty. Luckily there is water right here... Suddenly I have a flashback of how I tried to drink water in the last round. I am not that thirsty after all.

My thoughts are interrupted by a whizzing sound. It comes from the forest and it seems to be quite close. I am not left wondering for long. The source of that sound becomes the evident as the tree on the opposite side of the beach falls. I see my opponent. Her weapon immediately catches my attention - a chainsaw. Well that"s quite an uncommon choice.

As she comes out of the forest to the beach, her face contorts in a grimace.

- A scorching sun AND a desert? Just my luck. - The translation spell seems to works pretty well even without Rue around. She raises her gaze at me and talks to me in an unexpectedly sweet voice. - I am sorry, but I don"t really want to stay here for long, so let"s finish this quickly.

Without waiting for a reply she jumps forward. The lake is more than ten meters wide, but she leaps over it effortlessly. Just in the nick of time, I raise the sword to block her chainsaw. Ouch! What"s with this monstrous strength? The blow is so strong that the sword gets ripped away from my hand. Luckily I was able to duck and the chainsaw missed, but now I don"t have a weapon. That is not to say I am defenceless. I still have four projectiles that I stole from the mage during last round. Since I am at point-blank range, there is no worry of missing. I release one of the projectiles straight at the chainsaw-wielder"s chest and jump towards the sword that was flung away. I quickly grab the sword and turn around, ready to defend myself. To my surprise, my opponent didn"t move anywhere. She was just standing there and looking at the hole in her chest. With a tint of relief I notice that the hole is growing back together. In a mere seconds a five centimetre-wide hole in her chest disappears. All that is left is reddish-pink skin and a hole in his T-shirt. With a sigh, my opponent talks to me:

- Aren"t there any clothes that grow back together? It"s so irritating to buy new clothes after every single fight.

- That T-shirt doesn"t look too new. - I nod towards the stitches.

- I bought it only two weeks ago.

If I take into account the four days that he has spent here, then it means that the T-shirt was shredded and sewn together multiple times in the duration of around a week.

- That"s pretty harsh.

- You don"t know even half of it.

As she finishes, he jumps at me and makes another blow with his chainsaw. This time I am more prepared and reinforce my arms with Ether, so the sword isn"t ripped away from me. Though, I still get pushed back. Then she strikes another time, but I am still able to hold my ground. She continues striking and I continue blocking. This cannot continue for long. Her strength is much higher than mine. I need to counterattack.

I concentrate and try to follow the movement of her hands. As she strikes another time, I feel her movements getting slower. Actually it is not her movements that slow down, but my perception that speeds up. My movements still can"t keep up, but I see where she intends to strike next. Sidestepping, I manage to dodge her attack and swing my sword at her hand.

The blood gushes out and the chainsaw drops down on the sand. Her arm below the elbow is lying right beside the chainsaw.

- Great! This is just great! - She says with a smile on her face.

In a swift motion she squats, taking the chainsaw with the left arm, and swings it at me. I jump back to dodge it. Suddenly, a spinning bladed disk emerges from the tip of the chainsaw. This disk starts flying at me. The distance is too small. I can neither deflect it with the sword, nor dodge it. I activate Ether shield around my left arm and tilt it so that it gets in the way of the disk.

The time moves excruciatingly slowly. I see the disk that flies towards my arm and is ready to cut it, but I cannot do anything about it. I just don"t have strength to move fast enough. But what if...

My inventory-ability is supposed to help against projectile attacks. I couldn"t absorb projectiles during the training, but I was still able to absorb all those spells from the mage. The problem is that I can"t see the disk in my mind"s eye yet. To be exact I don"t see the whole disk. Since it partially touches the Ether shield, I can see that part in my mind"s eye, but not the whole disk, so I cannot move it. No, wait! The disk is spinning. It actually wraps my blue fog around itself. As it cuts into my hand, it is already fully enveloped in my fog. With a clap, I move the disk into my inventory. The time resumes it"s normal flow. All that is left is a slightly bleeding cut on my left hand.

Meanwhile the chainsaw-wielder grabs her hand and attaches it back to his elbow. In the blink of an eye it gets reattached. Does she also have adamantium claws growing from her knuckles? This regeneration is just unfair. How am I supposed to even beat someone like that?

I am not given any time to weight my options, since she starts swinging his chainsaw at me again. Ducking, I try to cut her hand away, but it turns out that she was expecting it. With an unexpectedly swift motion, she changes trajectory of the chainsaw, so that it comes down on me. I am forced abort my attack and use the sword to block. This is really heavy. I release the disk from inventory at at her arm. The pressure disappears and the chainsaw drops on the ground alongside the arm that was cut.

- Splendid! - Her shout disregards the dismembered limb.

I must not give her time to recover. I need to press forward, so I slash at her neck. Decapitation is pretty typical way to deal with immortal types. In an attempt to keep her head attached to the body, she tries to block my attack by grabbing my arm with her left hand. In response to that, I move the sword into inventory and immediately materialize it in my left hand. She is completely caught off-guard and is unable to react to my second slash at her neck.

Her head drops on the sand.

The sight is nauseating, but I still rejoice at my victory. Unfortunately my joy is short-lived. A heavy blow throws me back. Trying to take a breath I look at the headless body, that just kicked me. Hm. Absence of vital body parts does not seem to affect her much. Is there actually any way to kill this thing?

The headless body tries to reach for the head, but I don"t really want my efforts to be wasted. With a slash, I send a wind-blade whirling towards her. She raises his left arm and blocks it. Not wasting any time I close the distance between us and cut her second arm off. She tries to kick me, but I am ready for it and use my inventory-ability to block her kick with my sword. Immediately after that, I move the sword back into my hand and cut her leg off.

I am starting to feel like a butcher. There are a head, two arms and a leg laying on the ground, while the rest of the body is standing across me. And it"s still not over. All of the body parts try to roll or crawl towards the main body. If I leave her be, she will just assemble herself back together. This tenacity, immortality and chainsaw... Is she a zombie? That would explain her insane regeneration.

Meanwhile the head on the ground speaks:

- That was rather impressive and pretty pleasant. Not bad for a warmup. Shall we start the actual fight?

Dark substance oozes out of her dismembered limbs. This substance forms threads that attach to the main body. The sight is quite surreal. The main body is standing on one leg and there are four black threads connecting it to the dismembered limbs and the head. Those threads are probably used to reattach the limbs or to manipulate them from distance. Either way, it spells trouble for me.

My sword is supposed to possess the ability to dispel magic. Let"s see whether it works on those threads. Her head is closest to me. I throw the sword at the thread that connects it to the body. The thread gets cut, but the new one starts growing from the head towards the body. Meanwhile the main body swung one of the threads like a whip, which sent his arm flying at me.

This sword of mine is really convenient. For some reason I can see it in my minds eye even when I am separated from it. This means that I can move it into inventory without touching it. The process of moving it back and forth from inventory is actually faster than swinging it with my hands.

Sword to inventory, back into my hand, swing and... Strike! Using the sword as a bat I sent the arm flying into the lake.

While I was concentrating on that, the thread from the head grew and attached to the body again. Her leg and arm are also getting pulled back to the body by the threads. I can"t keep up. I don"t seem to be inflicting any damage on her and my multitasking skills aren"t good enough to keep her limbs separated. Slowing her down is all that I"m accomplishing here. I need to change my tactic.

What I don"t get is how does she know where I am? The body doesn"t have the eyes, so it shouldn"t know my location. Wait a minute. Her dismembered head is intently looking at the battlefield. What would happen if I cover her field of view?

To accomplish my plan I dash towards the head. At that time the left hand gets attached to the main body and black flame starts burning in the palm of that hand. I have a bad feeling about this. I release one of the three projectiles that are left in my inventory at her main body. Without waiting for the result, I grab the head by the hair and turn it around, so that it doesn"t see her body or me.

After that I turn around to check if her body can still pinpoint my location. I get an answer in the form of black a fireball flying at my face. Was my assumption incorrect? Can she sense the surroundings somehow? As these panicked thoughts cross my mind, I instinctively move the sword through inventory to block the black fireball.

Boom!

As the sword hit the fireball, an explosion occurs. The explosion is so strong, that I get thrown back a few meters and roll on the sand. Through the ringing in my ears I can"t hear anything. I try to look around, but the blood is covering my eyes. I wipe it away with my hand. A-a-a! There is a head in front of me! Wait, why am I surprised? I was holding it a moment ago. I feel weird. I grab the head and try to stand up, but my balance is off, so I drop down and release the head. My mind is foggy. Blankly I stare at the head rolling at my side. I think I got a concussion from this explosion.

I close my eyes to collect myself. First I need to get the sword back. I try to locate it, but something else captures my attention. For some reason I can see part of my opponent"s head in my mind"s eye. Why is that? It"s not close enough for it to be in range of my ability. I open my eyes and look at the part that is glowing in my mind"s eye. There is blood smeared at that place.

I didn"t pay attention to the the main body, but it doesn"t mean that it has forgotten about me. It reattached the leg to itself and is now preparing the second fireball. I"m in no condition to block or dodge. Taking both projectiles that are left in my inventory, I send them flying at the body. Hopefully this will buy me a bit of time.

If I see blood that I spilled in my mind"s eye, then does that mean that I can use it as a conductor to transport objects into the inventory? I have no other ideas right now, so I smear the blood from my cuts over the dismembered head.

- What the hell are you doing, you freaking pervert?

Hm-m-m... I"m sitting on the sand, holding a head in my hands (which I dismembered earlier) and trying to cover it in my blood. Nope. I see nothing weird here.

- Like you are the one to talk! - Is my retort. - You were shouting in joy when I was cutting your limbs!

- Yeah, so?

I am starting to feel that her personality is harder to deal with than her regeneration.

- Actually, it doesn"t matter anymore.

I"m practically finished. Her whole head is now covered in blue fog. Though, in my mind"s eye, I see a black thread stretching from her neck towards the body. Puzzled at my last statement she asks:

- What do you mean by that?

- You will see soon... Why do I hear excitement in your voice!?

- Eh? What"s wrong with being excited?

I don"t even know what to retort here. Why am I even chatting with her? she is just trying to buy time! I need to hurry.

Luckily I didn"t use inventory too much, so my MP bar is at around two thirds. Focusing on the fog around the head I try to move it into the inventory. As I try to pull, I feel resistance. As if there is a steel wire keeping that keeps the head from dropping into the inventory. I focus all my attention on pulling and my MP bar starts dropping rapidly. There is only one third left. I stop to take a breather. I haven"t tried using my ability with living objects. Is it impossible after all? No. I felt that it was possible. There was just strong resistance. Is it the thread"s fault?

I quickly retrieve my sword through inventory and cut the thread. Immediately after that I try to move the head into inventory again. There is resistance, but the feeling of being connected to something is not present anymore. This is the last try. My MP bar will be empty after this, so whether I succeed or fail, this is the end. Not to mention the main body that is running toward me at full speed. I concentrate all my effort on pulling the head. I feel a snap and get the feeling that it budges, but at the same time the MP bar goes to zero.

The weight disappears from my hands. I open the eyes and the head is not there. Though, instead, there is a body running at me. If I had to find something good about this situation, it"s that I will lose consciousness right now and wont feel the pain of the impact.

The consciousness is returning slowly and unwillingly. Although everything is in the haze, the absence of the typical phrase "The morning has come, Master" tells me that I didn"t die. Without bothering to open the eyes, I concentrate and look at the contents of my inventory. The MP bar is barely at twenty percent, but more importantly, there is a dismembered head in one of the slots.

I open my eyes and discover that I"m in that capsule filled with liquid. The same one that I used on my first day here. Yuck. I want to get out of here. I knock at the wall of the capsule a few times. Hopefully somebody responds.

As it turns out, Rue was waiting for me to wake up, so I got out of there in ten minutes and head outside. I want to find a spot that is not under surveillance. Unfortunately I can"t really consult Rue on this, since she is a surveillance device on her own. I need to do this preferably inconspicuously.

- Rue, can you please show me the footage of how the fight ended.

- Right away, Master.

An image of the previous fight appears in front of my face. It shows how the girl tries to cut me in half with the chainsaw, but I dismember her instead. Then comes the scene where she runs at me with the chainsaw and I hug her dismembered head, smearing my blood all over it. Looking from the sidelines my behaviour is pretty crazy. That is the more reason to question the girl"s sanity, as she was only excited from it. Meanwhile the head disappears with a pop and the body that was running at me becomes lifeless. It still has inertia, so it crashes at the unconscious me. Luckily the chainsaw was blown away when I tried to delay the body, so I didn"t get any serious injuries. The video ends with me lying unconscious and the girl"s headless body lying on top of me. This is wrong on so many levels, that I just want to quickly forget this.

- Rue, can you please fetch me some food?

- I will have to leave for about ten minutes. Would that be okay, Master?

- Yes, that"s fine. Come to this place, I will fetch you.

- As you command, Master.

I wait until Rue leaves and quickly go a bit deeper into the forest. Nobody is around, right? Well, there is no point of worrying about it, since I really don"t have any better options than this.

Now for the business at hand. I stretch my arm forward and take the object out of the inventory.

- To be or not to be: that is the question.

- What the hell are you talking about? - The head in my hand answered immediately.

- Don"t worry. Just something I wanted to do once.

More importantly though: it actually worked! I was able to use my inventory to transport a living being... Okay so she might not actually be a "living being" and I did transport only head. Nonetheless, I won the round without killing my opponent. That was mainly because I don"t know how to kill somebody with such a regeneration, but the fact remains. I got around the rules and I don"t want for it to be revealed. I have hard time believing in goodwill of the organisers of this tournament.

The head looks around and her face gets filled with puzzlement.

- Huh? How did I get here?

- I used my ability to seal your head. Your body stopped moving, so it was counted as my victory and the round finished. Since the round is over, I have now unsealed it.

- Wow! That explains why my body feels farther than it should be.

Farther? I thought it was left at that arena or destroyed.

- Can you tell me where approximately it is? - Even if it is just the place where they have morgue, that information is important enough.

- I don"t know where exactly, but it feels to be down and to the left. I think it"s somewhere under that spherical building.

She means the basement of the training complex? Why would they store dead bodies there? Well, better leave this mystery for some other time.

- Since our fight is finished anyway, can you please tell me about yourself. Mainly what is your race and special ability.

- In this situation, I don"t think there is any harm in doing it. My name is Zelriva Meltais, I"m just a human and my ability is a telekinesis.

- Telekinesis means the ability to move objects with your mind. It does not mean the ability to chat normally when all there is left of the body is a head.

- In my world there is a technology that allows us to Ether Link for regeneration. Basically, as long as I can sustain Ether Link, I can regenerate any damage. Though there are side-effects. Since my Ether Link is exceptionally strong, I am not really harmed when my body is damaged. Hence my sense of pain got atrophied. With no negative feelings, my positive ones also got degraded. So the only way for me to feel anything is to receive strong magical attacks that surpass my ability to regenerate.

To sum up what she said, I can just treat her as a zombie. She can"t really die and doesn"t even feel any pain.

- So with my story out of the way, there is something I want to request from you.

- I will promise to listen to your request. Nothing more.

- Can you please get my body back. I would really love it if you cut me with your sword and blew me up a few times.

I"m pretty sure the term "masochism" does not mean dismembered limbs and getting blown. Yet, that is the only term that comes at my mind

- You just said something really disturbing, so to keep at least some sanity in our conversation, I will pretend that I didn"t hear your last sentence.

- Why? It felt really good when you cut me earlier.

This masochist zombie takes the first place in the list of craziest people I have met. Yes, even crazier than the elvish sharpshooter and the angel. Even if they were unreasonable, they were still sane. This zombie on the other hand... She is just too screwed up. To distract her and myself, I ask a random question:

- Then why did you complain about the heat when you came out of the forest?

- You actually remember that?

- It"s hard not to remember, when the next instant I got attacked by the chainsaw!

- Now don"t get so mad. It was very fun and I would want to repeat that... - Her gaze seemed to be somewhere far away, so I shake my hand a bit. - Oh yeah. About my complaints. I"m what you could call a shutin, so such a strong heat and sun were really uncomfortable.

Somehow, I'm disappointed at this normal explanation.

- Now please tell me about yourself. - Is her request.

- Huh? Why should I?

- But I told you about myself.

- So? I didn"t promise you anything.

- That"s just mean.

- Call it whatever you want, but all that is left of your body is head and it"s me who is holding it. So you are not really in a bargaining position.

- In that case: what do you want from me?

- Please take out that expectation out of your voice. My request is most certainly not something you hope it to be.

- Aw. Spoilsport.

I really want to hit her, but it"s exactly what she wants, so I should just ignore that comment.

- I don"t really care what a masochist zombie thinks about me. As for what I want from you: I just want to get a better grasp on the situation. Plus, it would be very convenient if I could get your assistance during my upcoming matches. Having immortal zombie fight for me would increase my chances.

- Well, I"m not really against either of those. - Her voice was monotone. As if she is disappointed. - Though, there are two problems. First of all: without my body I can"t really help you properly. Surviving in this form requires me to expend Ether Link quite a bit, so there is not much I can use for supporting you. Some simple spells and a bit of telekinesis is the only thing I can do right now.

- Even that is quite good. I can"t promise that I can return your body just yet, but I will try. What is the second problem you were talking about?

- What"s in it for me?

- Is me not killing you not a good enough reason?

- Putting aside the issue of whether you actually could kill me. Even if you can, I don"t believe you actually will kill me now.

She is unexpectedly sharp.

- Hm. So threatening you won"t work.

- Who knows? I haven"t heard any threats yet.

I have a feeling that she is hinting at what she wants as a compensation and I don"t like that. I feel disgusted. Even so, securing her cooperation is really important. I cannot pass up on having such a trump.

- Ehem. I know I"m going to regret this, but what if I promised to cut all your limbs off if you help me survive my next round.

- Oh! That sounds delightful.

- In that case, I will move you into my inventory until I find the body or will need your assistance. Deal?

- Deal.

Unfortunately, I have to cover her in blood again to be able to move her into inventory. The process itself wouldn"t be so bad if it were not for her comments. Here are a few examples: "Hm. This is also exciting in it"s own way", "Ah! That tickles. Can you please scratch the neck a bit" and "Oh, how I wish those were my hands right now". By the way, the last one was referring to how I cut my hands to acquire some fresh blood.

Few minutes later I return to where Rue is with Zelriva"s head in my inventory.

- Here is the food, Master.

As I sit down to eat an improvised picnic, I talk to Rue:

- Rue, can you lead me to the morgue, corpses of the dead contestants are stored? More specifically: to where the corpse of my last opponent is.

- I'm sorry Master, but I cannot do that.

- Why is that?

- I have no information of such a place, Master.

- Just to clarify: there is no such place or you just don"t know where it is?

- I do not have any information about the existence of such place. Thus it either does not exist, or my access is insufficient.

Hm... Why would they need to restrict the access to morgue? Something is strange here. What if I approach this topic from another angle.

- Rue, can you tell me what is located in the basement of Training Complex?

- Ether reactor and some maintenance facilities.

Then what is zombie"s corpse doing down there?

- Can I go down there?

- No, Master. That area is strictly prohibited.

The situation is getting really weird. I want to get to the bottom of it, but I don"t want to risk breaking the rules openly just yet. I will put this situation on hold for now.

What to do next? I"m exhausted from my fight and I need to rest properly before the fight tomorrow. Training is not an option and visiting the library will bring more trouble than it is worth. On the other hand It"s only an afternoon, so I have plenty of time.

The only thing that comes to mind is that I could talk with my Yorick (the masochist zombie"s head). Information is my main weapon here and this is a good opportunity to acquire it. I don"t really want to reveal her existence to anybody, but I don"t think I have a lot of choice here. If I use her during my next fight, the organisers will get to know about her anyway, so it"s better to clarify this situation right now.

- Hey Rue, what were the exact conditions for the victory in the last round?

- Opponent must be incapable of battle.

- So killing isn"t necessary?

- That is not part of the conditions, but, for example, knocking unconscious does not fulfill those conditions.

- Why is that?

- There are abilities that trigger without conscious intervention, so knocking opponent unconscious does not mean that he is incapable of battle.

- I see. Then what about sealing opponents? For example transporting them to some dimensional pocket.

- In case it is determined that they cannot get out of there without assistance, then the battle can be considered over.

Hm. So what I did does not actually break any rules. Good.

- Then what about unsealing them during another round? So what if I transport my opponent from my last round to the next round?

- Rules do not prohibit that. Although, the round will be considered over only when there is exactly on person capable of battle. So in a scenario Master described, he would need to either kill his opponent anyway or seal him again.

Lucky! So there is nothing wrong with me using Zelriva to fight for me. I quickly summon Zelriva"s head from my inventory. She looks around a bit.

- So where is my body?

- It seems the zone where it is stored is restricted. Can you regenerate yourself a new one?

- Technically it"s possible, but not while I"m still connected to the old one.

- Then can"t I just cut that connection with my sword like I did during the fight.

- That was certainly pleasant... - Her gaze becomes dreamy and distant, so I just flick her forehead. - Oh yeah, sorry. - She returns to reality. - You didn"t actually cut my connection with the body. You only severed my telekinesis ability, that I used to move it. If you want me to lose the connection to the body, then you will practically need to annihilate it.

- Pity. I can"t get to your body without breaking the rules, which I don"t want to do right now. What about your ability? Since you can move your body even when separated from it, does it mean you can move it right now?

- It"s out of my reach right now. I feel the direction, but can"t reach it with my telekinesis.

- So there is no option but to leave you in this state...

- If you can"t me get my body, then in means only one thing.

- What is it? - I ask cautiously. I cannot fulfil our previous agreement, since I can"t get access to her body.

- You will have to feed me. - Her gaze is fixed on my lunch.

Processing...

- What the heck!? You don"t even have a stomach! I would just be wasting the food. Wait! Now that I think about it, shouldn't you have already bled to dead?

- Don"t worry about that. I use my power to sustain this state. Though, I have to use it continuously, so it"s slightly taxing.

- Then why do you want me to feed you?

- The food is still somewhat pleasant. If you don"t feed me I won"t cooperate. Now feed me. A-a-a... - She opens her mouth expectantly.

Feeding the dismembered head... This scene is straight out of some trashy horror movie. Shuddering inwardly I comply with her demands. My sanity points are dropping at an alarmingly fast rate.

Half an hour and one horrific experience later I sit down in my room with a talking head and a quiet faerie across me. After Zelriva ate food, it came out of her neck. After seeing how it looked, unsurprisingly, none of us wanted want to stay there.

- So what now? - Asked Zelriva.

- Can you please tell me a bit more about your abilities? I don"t really know what you are capable of.

And more importantly: I will know how to deal with you if I will have to fight you again.

- There is nothing much to say. In this state, I have to use too much power to stay functioning, so I can"t really do much. Some telekinesis at a range of around ten meters. And maybe a simple spell or two. Nothing much.

- By the way, why didn"t you throw me around with your ability?

- Well... You see...

- Yes?

- I was curious and underestimated you. I wasn"t worried since you didn"t actually have any way to inflict real damage on me.

- Wait. How do you know that?

- You thought so yourself.

- Thought? You mean that you can read my mind?

- I"m really bad at telepathy, so only some surface thoughts.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! How could I forget about mental magic? It"s common enough in games and I don"t have any protection against it. There is a high likelihood of getting transported back to first day in case of my death, but mental magic is a different story. If I get brainwashed, then getting back in time won"t do me any good. I should have asked how I could protect my mind. Like alway, hindsight is ten out of ten. Luckily and hopefully nobody tampered with my mind too much.

At least now I have a pretty good guess as to why the spirit in the library knew about my previous visit.

- How can I prevent others from tampering with my mind?

- What kind of backwater world are you from? - Asks Zelriva.

- The one where magic can be found only in stories and legends.

- Then those legends are a pretty good teaching material.

- What do you mean?

- If there are no mages in your world, then there was nobody to teach you, so all your knowledge about magic had to come from stories and legends.

- While your statement is correct on some level, you are still wrong. I learned to use magic only after I got here.

- Wait, wait, wait. - Zelriva"s face is that of a complete astonishment. - Are you telling me that all your practical knowledge about magic comes from studying here for a few days?

- Well... Yeah? - I was kind of a surprised at her reaction. - Why are you so upset? I heard from a spirit in the library that those with strong Ether Link learn things quicker.

- Yes. Instead of moths it is possible to learn basics in a week or so.

- Ha-ha-ha. Now you must be joking.

- Master, she is correct. - Interjected Rue. - If we take the time needed to learn to morph Chlymea into a weapon as a benchmark, then normally it would be around two to three weeks. Those with strong Ether Link might do that in four or five days. If we are talking about people with the strongest Ether Link in their respective worlds, then two to three days might actually be possible.

Are you kidding me? It took me less than a day to learn to infuse Ether into Chlymea. And now Rue tells me that four days is the minimum for it? This makes me into some kind of a genius. Oh... Now I get it. Of course I"m a genius. How could I not be one? I forgot about surrealism of all that is happening. I mean come on. A mortal fight with a zombie that uses chainsaw as a weapon, and then in the afternoon I"m having a picnic with the head of that same zombie. Now they are even trying to prove to me that I"m genius at magic. It"s not a question of whether this is a game or reality anymore. How can this be anything but a game?

If I look at everything from this angle, then things make much more sense. I got so into it, that I actually took that masochist-zombie seriously. Even though she is totally screwed up, if I look at her as a game character, then she might actually be considered interesting. I still don"t have any way of getting out of here, so I"ll just continue in the same way as before.

- Master, what is the matter?

- Huh? Ah, don"t worry. I just spaced out a little. So now that it was established that I am a genius, can you teach me to defend against mental magic.

- To do that efficiently Master needs to find a mental mage.

- What about Zelriva? - I nod towards the head. - She could read my mind a bit.

- Mental mage is needed to apply pressure. As with mos of basic magic, the process is largely intuitive. First step is to detect the mental interference.

- So, will you help? - I want to confirm Zelriva"s cooperation one more time.

- It"s not like I have much of a choice. My best chance at getting body back is sticking with you. Though, as you said earlier, I"m not exactly in a bargaining position. Though I refuse to do anything for free.

- Okay... And what do you want in exchange?

I have a bad premonition about this. With an odd glint in her eyes she responds:

- Later, when you learn a bit, I want you to do the same thing to me. As strongly as you can.

Facepalm. It was stupid of me to expect any type of normal request from her. But I have to remind you that I can"t really do much.

- Can you do what Rue said?

- Just barely.

- Then it"s worth a try.

- In that case, I begin.

For the next few minutes I am sitting and trying to feel anything out of the ordinary.

- Nope, can"t feel anything.

- If you fantasised less and concentrated more on your feeling, then it would be much easier. Though I can"t deny that I"m quite would be clad to take part in some of those fantasies.

I think she refers to the thought I had about using hinese water torture on her.

- Was that your doing?

- No, and I look forward to what else you will come up with.

Need to ignore her and focus. I close my eyes and see the inventory in a familiar way. Not knowing what to do, I investigate what I see with my mind"s eye. I can"t really see anything out of ordinary, so I"m quite disappointed. Zelriva"s head still glows in one or two parts, but since my blood has nearly all dried up, I don"t see her in my mind"s eye. Stop! What is that black hair coming out of her head. No, not a hair. It"s a really thin thread that connects to my forehead. I concentrate on my feelings at the front of the forehead. There is actually a really small itch. I try conctrating Ether at that spot, to block the black thread. This is exhausting. My MP bar drops by quite a bit.

- Congratulations. You actually succeeded this fast. I think I can believe that you learned magic just a few days ago. - Zelriva stops her mental pressure.

- Yeah, but it"s really exhausting.

- Master does not need to worry. With practice, it becomes much easier. The first experience is always hard.

- That"s a relief. I don"t think I can keep this up and actually fight for long.

- Master still needs to train with this, to even be at an adequate level.

I was actually hoping to rest from training today. How naive of me.

Next day I am going towards the Training Complex. Another round is about to start. Zelriva"s head and my sword are in the inventory. That"s all of my arsenal right now. Not overly impressive.

I spent the rest of the evening practising protection from mental magic with Zelriva. That said, I"m not good at it. It was, after all, only one evening of training. Although I am still not confident about it, I can at least detect it pretty reliably. This means that if somebody will try to brainwash me, I will at least notice it. I will be able to kill myself in time to avoid any lasting effects.

This time I am first to arrive at the Training Complex. There isn"t anybody nearby. I just stand, waiting for my opponent to arrive. One minute... Two minutes...

- Please enter the teportation circle.

There is the announcement, but still no opponent. I enter the room with teleportation circle. Right at this moment, a new figure appears. In the nick of time, my opponent arrives. Pity. I hoped that I would be able to avoid the fight this time. I get another proof that hope is a foolish feeling.

So, who am I up against? Something about that figure seems familiar. Long brown hair, slender arms and black jeans. She turns around and I get to see her face. At the same moment the transportation occurs, so she does not hear my surprised exclamation:

- Lin? Is that you?


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