Karen had been waiting patiently to spar with her little sister for over a year. One of the few things she had missed after moving to Tokyo had been playing around with Yuri. As for their sparring sessions at the dojo, it would usually end up becoming surrounded by the other students due to it being quite intense. The students would claim that they wanted to learn by watching but their facial expressions revealed how exciting watching the spar between the two sisters were to them. Unfortunately, this also meant that the space available for moving around would be more restricted as they didn’t want any harm to befall the students. This prevented either her or her sister from being able to go all out and fight more freely and instead, they would have to hold back a lot of their ability. So Karen had actually been wanting an all-out spar for even more than a year.

And now, here at the training centre inside Celestial Realms, they did not need to worry as much about injuring others. Not only was the space to spar in much bigger than at their dojo, the people here were strangers too. Some of whom were looking at them with either disgusting or odd glints in their eyes. There was no real need to hold back on their account and if some of them ended up getting hurt by being too close, it wouldn’t bother her much. ‘But still…probably a good idea to warn them anyway, just in case.’ Karen sighed.

So when it came to their turn, after stepping into the sparring area, she looked about and said, “Sorry to be a bother ladies and gents but if can move back a bit, you’ll be less likely to receive injuries from our spar. Just a warning that we will not be held responsible for any damages incurred to you should you decide to come any closer.”

Some of them looked at her with skepticism in their eyes at the warning but they moved back slightly anyway. It didn’t matter too much to Karen as she had already given the warning. There was no longer a need to hold back anymore. Today, would be the all-out spar she had been dreaming about for so long.

She moved closer to the centre of the sparring area and did some light stretches to loosen her muscles. She noticed that Juli was doing the same and once ready, they nodded to each other. She gripped the shield in her left hand lightly before getting into a position by putting her left foot forward and extending her shield arm out. She lowered her centre of gravity a bit by slightly bending her knees and gazed at her opponent.

They stared at each other for a whole minute before Juli took a step in, leading with her right foot and moving the blade in her right hand in time with her foot to hit the target just as her right foot touches the floor. Karen watched the sword come down and moved the shield to her right slightly to let the attack hit it in an angle and deflect the damage by smacking the blade to the side . She also knew from her sisters habits that this wasn’t the real attack and quickly moved the shield to the top left to deflect the real attack coming in for her head.

“Come on Yu-chan, that was so predictable. You should know by now that basic attacks won’t work on me,” she taunted.

“I’m still warming up,” came the reply from Juli as she retreated a bit.

Karen noticed her taking a few deep breaths and knew a flurry was coming up. She took a small step forward to reduce the amount of damage that can be dealt and swung the sword in her right hand in a full circle to get it ready to move it about. As soon as she finished her step, the flurry of attacks came from Juli. She no longer tried to deflect the attacks with the shield but would instead pull her arm back a bit as soon as the blade touched the shield to absorb the blows. With her sword, she would parry in a way that would make the opponents blade slide down the blade of her sword before deflecting it away from her before it reached the hilt. It didn’t do much to stop the flurry of attacks coming in but it reduced the damage taken by almost 90%.

This went on for about half an hour with no opening at all. It was a good thing she had turned off all notifications before the spar started or she might be getting bombarded with various windows popping up by now. She kept blocking and parrying each attack that kept coming in without moving from the spot she was at. When it finally stopped she looked at her sister and with a grin, asked, “Finished warming up yet?”

Juli just smiled and nodded her head in response while lowering her stance slightly. “Ok everyone, that warning about moving back earlier would be a good thing to follow now. The fireworks are about to start,” Karen said out loud.

“What? It’s just starting? That was already so intense!” she heard someone remark.

“Don’t hold back on me now Yu-chan.” Karen said to her sister in a bit quieter voice.

Just as she finished saying it, she lost sight of where Juli was. She was about to look around when she felt a slight movement of wind to her left. She quickly turned and blocked an attack, barely absorbing it before deflecting it back. Juli used the deflection of the attack to jump back and vanish again.

‘Wow, to think she had been holding back this much in our usual spars before. I guess I should stop holding back too. And I think I’m going to have to make an opening instead of waiting for one.’ Karen thought.

She changed her stance slightly by moving her right foot back and in a bit. She also redistributed her weight to put more on her back foot as well. This would allow her to turn quickly to block or parry any incoming attacks and also allow her to react by rushing in if there was an opening. Unfortunately, she knew that her current opponent would not give any openings and instead, kept looking for a way to create one. The faster pace also increased her own awareness of her surroundings to another level as she was able to feel the changes in the air around her to detect where the next attack was coming from. There was not much point to trying to find Juli with her eyes so instead, she closed her eyes and kept trying to sense her location. It took about 10 minutes but by focusing on the changes in the air around her, she was able to pinpoint not only the direction the attacks were going to come from but also which blade it was.

An idea popped into her head. Each time a swing from the left blade was coming, instead of blocking with her shield, she would block it with her sword. Each block also aimed to block it at the same spot it was blocked the first time. It took about half an hour more before she felt some splinters come flying off from the left blade. Considering that Juli’s movements had not changed, Karen knew that her plan was not discovered. And as the left blade was swung at her again, Karen crouched down slightly while swinging her sword out and causing the weakened blade to break.

Juli looked at the blade in surprise and gave Karen the opening she had been waiting for. Karen quickly jumped forward from her stance and moved into the space that was made by the broken left blade and delivered a bash using the shield right into Juli’s chest. The momentum from the movement forward along with timing on Karen’s part put a lot of force into the shield bash causing Juli, who had also been thrown off balance from lack of a full second blade, to go flying out of the sparring area and into the wall behind her. Karen also let out a surprised gasp, indicating that she had not expected this outcome either, and ran to her sister to help her up.

*******************************

Juli sat up after having fallen down from hitting the wall and while in a bit of a daze, allowed her sister to help her up to her feet. ‘What happened?’ she wondered as she got up. She shook her head to clear her head and just said, “You win, onee-chan.”

This caused a smile to appear on her older sisters face. “Good to see you’re ok too Yu-chan. I never knew you could move so fast,” said her sister.

“Yea, but I think I still have a lot to improve on too. Where did I make the mistake?” she asked.

“If I had to pick out your biggest fault, it would be your lack of awareness to the things around you. You were so focused on attacking, that you disregarded everything else. This allowed me to create an opening by targeting a specific point of your blade to weaken and break it. Inside the sparring ring, the focus on attack can be forgiven. But if we’re fighting monsters outside the city walls, you might easily find yourself with a claw in you if you’re that careless. Not too sure how we’ll be training that…but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask the instructor.”

Juli could only nod her head at the detailed analysis given. She went to pick up the broken pieces of the blade, thinking she would need to apologize to the instructor for the damaged weapon. As she stood up from picking the pieces up, a sudden round of applause was heard from all the spectators. She looked up to see a standing ovation from all the people that had seen the spar. Any odd looks that were given their way earlier had been replaced with a look of respect. She bowed politely to them as she had been taught and made her way to Sir Isaac, who was also clapping his hands.

“My apologies for the weapon sir. It was my fault for not paying attention to its condition during the battle.” Juli lowered her head deeply as she apologized to Sir Isaac.

“Lass, raise your head. They’re wooden weapons because they’re easy and cheap to replace when they get damaged. And considering the skills the two of you have displayed tells me that you both will be great assets to our nation. As such, a broken training sword is cheap in comparison. But I wonder if you can indulge this old man and tell me how long have the two of you been practicing the ways of the sword?” came the reply, which caught Juli slightly off guard.

“We’ve been training since we were able to hold something that would resemble a sword in our hands if I had to guess a time,” Karen answered. “Hard to remember how long ago that was exactly, but the two of us have rarely gone a day without holding a blade in our hands. But on another note, I was wondering, are there any methods to allow one to train their awareness Sir Isaac? I want to improve my perception of my surroundings and I know my sister needs it as well.”

“Unfortunately lass, the only way to improve that is through experience. You can gain some experience from sparring multiple people at a time but that is still not as good to train the perception as battling against foes in the wilderness. In the wild, you never know when or where an attack will come from and the need for survival will make the body adapt at a quicker pace than any other method I can think of. There was a lad here that displayed a deep level of perception based on the image training I saw him doing, but I get the impression he earned it in the places far more dangerous than the wilderness near cities. But reaching the same level of image training he was doing will need a lot of first hand battle experience.”

“Oh…that’s too bad. Maybe I’ll try to convince some of the other adventurers tomorrow then to help out and see if that helps I guess. Something better than nothing.” Karen replied, looking a bit downcast.

“I don’t know if the two of you will be in a condition to spar again tomorrow or not but what are your plans for now? I think it might be a good idea to look around the city and relax a bit to let your body heal from the spar.”

“I was thinking of going to the smithy to learn the skills of the trade. I want to be able to make some specific type of blades for us that I’m not sure can be found in this city. Not to mention that it might be cheaper to make my own armor as well in the long run. Blacksmithing seems like a natural choice.”

While they were talking, Juli was reading some of the pop-ups that appeared. She noticed that she had about 12 windows saying that Agility had improved while about 5 of them were about an improvement to Dexterity. There was also a smaller increase to Vitality but it was only 1 point. She also noticed some windows that said that she had gained some skills.

[Your display of skills in the spar have unlocked the following skills:

Sword Mastery

Dual-wield

Wind Walk]

[Sword Mastery has reached Beginner rank 7.]

[Dual-wield has reached Beginner rank 3.]

[Wind Walk has reached Beginner rank 1.]

There was also another window that she didn’t think would have carried over. It seems to have unlocked a trait for her.

[Your display of wielding a weapon in each hand has unlocked the following trait:

Ambidexterity]

Of course she had no idea what these meant but she tried her best not to be too distracted by them and just closed them for now. She did quietly say, “Open Status Window.”

Name: Julianne Gender: Female

Race: Half-Elf      Class: Novice

Title: None

Fame: 0

Health: 82          Health regen: 0.1/s

Mana: 110           Mana regen: 0.11/s

Stamina: 100        Stamina regen: 1.0/s

Strength: 9         Dexterity: 15

Agility: 25         Vitality: 10

Intelligence: 11    Wisdom: 10

Luck: 10            Charisma: 10

Equipment:
Plain Robes

“I think it is definitely a good idea to take up Blacksmithing as I did notice that both of you only used one side of the sword when attacking. Do you use a Katana or a Falchion perhaps?” Juli heard Sir Isaac saying.

“Ah, we were trained in the Katana. The impression I received is that they will either be hard to find or fairly expensive in this region. Which is why I had planned to make my own instead.” Karen replied.

“Either way, you might want to take it a bit easy and let your fatigue from the spar recover instead of learning Blacksmithing today. You would want to be at full capacity for a strenuous task that would be required from smithing. Even more so if you plan to make a quality Katana. Come see me tomorrow morning and I will write an introduction letter for you to give to our resident head Blacksmith, Jonas. As for today, here is a silver for each of you for showing me a wonderful bout. Get something to eat at the tavern in the western square. Best place to be after a good spar.” He said as he handed out a silver to the two of them.

She just put it into her inventory while planning to give it to her sister later since she didn’t know how money worked in these games. She did bow and give her thanks to Sir Isaac as she heard her sister reply, “Thank you Sir Isaac. I think I’ll take your advice and rest for the day.”

They both left the Barracks after returning the equipment that were in one piece. They left the broken piece with Sir Isaac. Upon reaching outside, a thought occurred to Juli as she said, “Onee-chan, you said you were going to use Blacksmithing to make armor too? Wouldn’t armor made of metal be heavy?”

Karen nods and says, “Yes, they’re amongst the best to wear for defense though. What’s up?”

“Well, I’m not sure if I want to wear heavy armor as it would kind of impede my movement. Wouldn’t it be better to wear lighter gear for my style of fighting?”

“Hm…yes…so I guess maybe one of us would need to get tailoring or something too. Then again, I thin we might be able to get Maria to make things out of cloth as she seemed to have been planning to be a tailor anyway. Well…we’ll think of something later I guess. For now, lets go eat. I’m actually feeling hungry.”

Juli nods and follows her sister as they go towards the Goddess statue in the central square. As they get near the statue, Juli notices some people that look to be travelers heading to the south. She noticed that although they were moving fairly easily, they made little to no sound when walking. When she looked towards their feet, she noticed something like boots but that didn’t look like metal. She tugged on the sleeve of her sister and pointed while asking, “Onee-chan, how do you think those boots are made? It would be nice to be able to make something like that to move in I think. It wouldn’t be as heavy as metal boots but looks like they would be better than something made of cloth.”

“Leathercrafting eh…that’s not a bad idea. You would be able to make some lighter armor too if you wanted something a bit sturdier than cloth but not as heavy as plate. And knowing you, I can see you making some cute shoes and gloves out of leather. We should stop by after some food to see if we can find someone to teach it to you. It shouldn’t put as much stress on our body like working with metal would. But for now…food!” says her sister as she grabs her hand and drags her off towards the west.

**********************************

They found the tavern easily enough after reaching the west fountain. Upon entering, they noticed some travelers similar to the ones they saw heading south at the Goddess statue sitting around and eating happily. They greeted the owner politely and asked for a seat for two. They were taken to a nearby table where they sat down to wait for their meal.

“I’ll take whatever the chef recommends.” Karen said. Juli simply nodded to indicate the same.

“Tobi, two of your recommendations,” the owner shouted inside.

They saw a boy, in a robe similar to theirs, pop out of the kitchen and look around. As he noticed the two ladies that the owner was standing near, he asked, “Eastern or western?”

Karen was a bit surprised at how young the boy looked and was at a bit of a loss for words. But Juli just answered, “Eastern for me.”

“Oh, sorry. I’ll take something western. Thank you.” Karen said after snapping out of her trance.

The boy simply nodded and went back in. Karen looks at the owner and asks, “He’s the chef?”

The owner nods and replies, “Yes, he’s been the main chef for the past few hours actually. My wife and I were surprised as well but in the short time he’s been here, he has helped us quite a bit. Not only is he quick but his dishes are delicious enough to receive non-stop compliments from the travelers too. I asked if he was a Master in Cooking but he said that he was only a Beginner rank 7. Apparently learned how to cook from his mother.”

“Interesting…so young but already on his way to being a great chef. Looking forward to his dishes then.”

The owner heads back to his post behind the desk. “Onee-chan, the sparring gave me some skills and stats. Did you get anything?” said the voice sitting across from her.

“You know, I had completely forgotten about that. I should check now.”

She turned her notifications back on and noticed several stat gains. She had gained about 8 to Vitality and 6 to Dexterity. She has also surprisingly gained 2 points in Agility, possibly from that last burst. She had also unlocked Shield Mastery and gotten it at Beginner rank 4, which was kind of a given. But she had also gained a skill called Awareness and it was at Beginner rank 2. She touched the skill and it opened up a window with more details.

[Awareness: This skill allows you to get a feel for your surroundings by using your senses fully. Lower levels will allow you to get a feel for your surroundings using the flow of the wind. At higher levels, it will allow you to get a feel for other things around you as well, such as the presence of life.]

She was a bit sad that she did not get any Sword Mastery but she seemed to have gained a technique for her Shield usage. She touched it for more information.

[Shield Bash – Beginner rank 1: A skill where the shield is used to bash the opponent. If the target is light enough, can allow a knock back effect. Damage done using this skill is based on skill level and the Strength stat.]

“I got a raise of 8 to my Vitality, 6 to Dexterity, and 2 to Agility. I gained Shield Mastery, Shield Bash, and the Awareness skill from the looks of it. What did you get?” She asked her sister.

“For me, my Agility went up by 12, Dexterity by 5, and Vitality by 1. I got Sword Mastery, Dual Wielding, and Wind Walk skill. It said that I unlocked the ambidexterity trait too,” Juli said.

“Odd…neither of us gained any Strength. I wonder why.” As she was contemplating the lack of any strength gains, a lady, that could only be the owner’s wife, brought out their food.

One of the dishes she had brought out was some a Fried Rice dish. It was placed in front of Juli and it seemed to have some bits of meat as well as a fair bit of mixed vegetables in it. It definitely smelled delicious. And her dish was actually Vermicelli with sauce on top of it. There was no garnish but she wasn’t about to complain as she actually loved pasta and couldn’t wait to try it out. The lady said, “The dishes are 5 coppers each and you can settle it with my husband at the desk. Enjoy your meal.”

Neither waited all that long to dive into their food showing how hungry they really had been. The food in front of them had vanished in a matter of minutes. Both sisters had a rather dreamy look to them as they leaned back in their chairs and let out a sigh.

“Wow…5 coppers for this feels really cheap for some reason,” Karen said.

Juli nodded her head but one of the travelers that had been sitting nearby piped up and said to them, “Isn’t it? I’ve had my fair share of good meals in my travels and this one feels like it’s from a luxurious restaurant only meant for nobles. I wouldn’t be surprised if people would pay a silver for these dishes.”

Both sisters nodded their head vigorously as Karen said, “I wouldn’t be surprised either. If I didn’t have so little on me, I probably would have paid a silver for it today.”

All the travelers still in the tavern nodded their heads in agreement. “Three cheers for Young Master Tobi!” one of them cried out as the travelers raised their glasses to the toast. Karen couldn’t help but laugh and raised her glass of water as well.

As the noise died down, Karen said to her sister, “As much as I would love to stay and eat more, I’m full. And I think that it would be a good idea for you to learn some leatherworking too before everything closes up. So should we head to the shop?”

“Ok,” came the short reply as they both rose from the table. They paid the 10 coppers for their meal and thanked the owner and asked for directions to the tanning shop before heading out. They passed by the Goddess statue again as they headed towards the production district. They spotted the tanning shop a fair distance away and made their way towards it. As they got closer, a strong smell of leather being tanned hit them and made them stop for a bit. While it didn’t smell as putrid as she had heard it used to, it was still not all that appealing a smell.

“Ugh. I wonder if we can bottle this smell up and use it to ward off monsters or something. It stinks bad enough that it’ll probably keep a lot of them away.” Karen said.

“Bad…but need to learn how to do it,” came the response from her sister. Karen nodded and they both pressed on to enter the shop.

Inside the shop, there were some hides lying in a couple of big baskets in one of the corners that looked as if it hadn’t been worked on. There were also a few racks that had some rawhide that looked ready to be tanned and a few racks where there was leather being dried. The odd thing about the inside of the shop, was that the smell that they smelled outside wasn’t here. She spotted a few finished boots on one of the racks in the back of the store too. The man that had been working on a set of boots had stopped and was looking at them with the unsaid question asking them what they wanted.

“Ah, my sister here had wanted to learn Leathercrafting. We learned that this is the place to learn how to make it all from scratch.” Karen said.

“Your sister…but not you?” he asks.

“No, I’ll be trying my hand with Blacksmithing tomorrow. Sir Isaac suggest that I should do it then instead of today. But my sister wanted to be able to make equipment that was lighter than metal but more sturdy than cloth. So yea…Leathercrafting was the first thing that came to my mind that fit.”

He looked at Juli and then said, “You do realize that you might end up smelling as bad as how it smelled outside right? Still want to learn?”

Juli nodded her head in response. Then she bowed and said, “Please teach me to make fine leather goods.”

Karen on the other hand said, “About that smell…I noticed that it’s only outside the shop and not in here. Why is that?”

He raised an eyebrow and asked, “Why do you want to know?”

Before she could respond, Juli said, “She wants to bottle it to use as monster repellent.”

He looked at the two of them with a deadpan look for a whole minute. Then he burst out laughing. The two sisters looked at each other, clearly confused by the reaction. Seeing the confused look though, he calmed down and started explaining:

“Sorry. But the smell outside is actually a fake smell to keep people that think of Leathercrafting as a cheap way to turn the things they kill into money. While I don’t really mind if the finished goods are sold for money, I don’t want people killing off thousands of animals just to turn their hides into leather to sell. So with help from a friend of mine, we concocted the ‘perfume’ as we call it, to try and dissuade people. The reason I was laughing was because the few that had come in here, didn’t notice that at all but then the two of you who did, had indirectly came upon the secret to it.”

“Ah…so…um…would you sell one of those bottles of Leather Perfume?” Karen asks.

“I would but it wouldn’t really repel any monsters. If anything, it’ll make them more aggressive towards you instead. So I would recommend against it. As for teaching my craft…why not. It will take time for make fine quality goods though but if you’re willing to learn, I will teach.”

Juli nods her head as Karen sighs and says, “Oh well…was worth asking at least. I guess I’ll go arrange a room for us at the inn while you learn the tricks of trade Yu-chan. I’ll come back here after.”

“Ok, I will see you later then onee-chan.”

They go their separate ways for now with Juli learning how to remove the hair from unworked hides to make rawhide and then how to turn rawhides into leather. Karen went back to the Goddess statue and asked the guards for directions to an inn before heading over to it to book their room.

*AN: phew…done another chapter. Apologies for the time I take to write…my attention span tends to wander a bit…such as wandering off to play games. This is also what kept me from starting to write a lot sooner.

On another note, I would like to hear what classes the people you’ve seen are going to be. I will say this that they will not start out with any hidden classes (well…except one of them but the job is not usually hidden in many games that its in). Hopefully I’ll get the next chapter done within three weeks.

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