I swung my heavy mace, sweat dripping down my forehead and my back. I’d been doing this for hours, mindlessly. I wasn’t practicing any sort of real technique, just swinging.
It kept my mind off of things. The investigation was still ongoing, and that was somewhat stressful. The guildmaster seemed upright and honest, but even if he was that way most of the time, he could still have moments where he acted irrationally. Maybe he would use this chance to do something against me. Logically, I knew that was unlikely. It would be rather obvious or he would have to implicate many others he also knew were innocent- but minds didn’t think logically. They liked to get stuck thinking about everything that could go wrong.
That was also why I couldn’t stop thinking about Jessica. I didn’t really know her- I’d seen her around the guild a few times, probably, but that was it. Now, she was dead. I knew adventuring was dangerous- that people could die. I even heard about some dying, though not too many. I just hadn’t seen it.
It was a strange disconnect- I’d actually killed people before but those were ‘enemies’. Seeing someone else dead was a different feeling. More importantly, it was a cleric. It could have been a coincidence but… in Trona, clerics had been targeted. I hadn’t actually made the connection until Kantrilla brought it up. In Trona, assassins had targeted clerics… and here, a cleric had been killed. Sure most of the men weren’t assassins by class… but perhaps by profession. Unfortunately, we didn’t know anything about the group that had sent the assassins, and whether they might be connected to this other group. At least, I didn’t.
There was no use thinking about it with the limited information I had. I also wasn’t able to do anything about it with my limited power either. Sure, I was pretty strong… and I’d even killed a few of their group- assuming they were connected- but in the grand scheme of things I was still low level. The first assassin was also just luck- possibly Kantrilla’s Luck, but the fact that he’d tried to block my halberd instead of dodging was his downfall. It wasn’t a tricky setup by me… and if he’d just made slightly better choices I could have died instead.
That was why I wanted to learn more about fighting humanoids. Besides the fact that many monsters were humanoids, I now had another reason- maybe I would fight more actual humans… or elves, dwarves, etc. Maybe I wouldn’t want to kill them either, which was another thing I would have to learn. My current method of combat was “swing heavy thing, crush bones” or sometimes “swing heavy thing, cut in half”. Great for killing monsters, not great for not killing people but still stopping them from participating in combat. I did choose to delay those lessons until after the whole situation with the investigation was over- I didn’t want it to look like I was planning to fight anyone right now. Sure, the dungeon we would be exploring had goblins… but it was best to wait some.
It took more than a week for results of the investigation to be announced, only for the results to be simple and somewhat disappointing. All that was really said was that our storys appeared to be accurate.
Nothing was said about the two people we had brought in- though they hadn’t been sentenced. They also hadn’t been let free. I heard that they tried to commit suicide, but hadn’t been successful. A week had passed just to hear that we were telling the truth. It was kind of disappointing, but I hoped they actually got more information than that.
The only real result was that we started exploring the dungeon again- while it was technically not leaving the city… since the troubles had happened in the dungeon to begin with it was best to stay out even if we weren’t technically forbidden. Beyond that, the guards around the dungeon actually started asking for our adventurer’s ranking plaques. I wasn’t sure if that would help, because it was easiest to get fake identifications for the lowest ranks… but it showed the guards were paying more attention to who went into the dungeon. Maybe they would catch someone, or at least scare them off.
I found myself lying on my back on the floor. Getting there hadn’t really been painful… just humiliating. Mostly, it was being thrown there by a skinny old man.
Sure, he had lots of levels on me, but he made everything look so easy… for the few blurry moments I could see anything before I found myself on the floor again.
I had at least 100 more Strength than this guy- which actually put him very high and not particularly in the expected skinny old man territory… but I was still a significant proportion stronger and it didn’t even matter. I reached forward to grab his arm… and then found myself in an uncomfortable position where he was standing on me holding my arm up with my chest to the floor.
I had definitely grabbed his arm. That was the worst part. If he had just avoided me I wouldn’t have been so thrown off, but I achieved my hold and then… lost it.
Master Motta let me get up. “See? It’s all about the technique. Even if you get a hold on someone, if you don’t use it right… they can get out and turn it on you.”
“Alright, what next?”
“Next you learn how to escape holds of all kinds. We’ll move onto more detailed offensive grappling later, but if you’re wearing plate mail, once you get a hold you can just punch someone in the face. Easy, right? However, if you find yourself in a disadvantageous position, you can’t ge out with pure Strength.”
Master Motta was a good teacher. He explained with words and action just how each hold worked, and how to escape. Some of the holds hurt, but he usually only held them in the most painful positions for a moment so I would know what it felt like. Generally, I didn’t get hurt… after I’d learned how to properly fall anyway.
I didn’t hear it at the time, but later I was told about a conversation that happened after I left that day.
“You think it’s fair to use those active techniques on a beginner?” Master Siegfried- one of the dueling instructors- asked.
Master Motta looked over toward the other trainer who had been watching, “Are you kidding? That kid is strooooong.” Master Motta shook his wrist. “He can wrench his way out of most of these holds with just a half-baked technique. If I hold back and let him get out that way… he’ll never learn the right way.” Master Motta shrugged, “Well, he’s a bit slow to react. If this were serious I could just dislocate a shoulder or two. He’s got a long way to go before he’ll be good… but that raw Strength makes up for anyone who’s not much better than him. Still, the harder it is for him now- the easier it will be later.” Master Mottra frowned, “If he weren’t so dang tiny I’d swear he was half-giant or something. Isn’t he supposed to be B-rank?”
Master Siegfried shrugged, “His party could be C-rank now. They’ve been hunting goblin bosses. They just have to fill out the paperwork. Besides Strength though… He seems a bit lacking.”
“Oh? You’re going to tell me you had anything remarkable but Dexterity back in the day?”
“Hah. A fair point.”