tagSci-Fi & FantasyCultural Exchange Ch. 03

Cultural Exchange Ch. 03

byTenou©

Well, here we are again.

First, my apologies for taking more time than intended, both my editor and I have been unexpectedly busy these days. On my side, my brother is expecting twins by December and I've had to help around his house among other things.

As for notes, I have to say that this was intended to be a longer chapter than the previous ones, but in the end it was decided to be split in two. The next chapter is almost completely written already so expect it soon, although I can't give you a definitive date. It will be shorter, but it compensates because it is more thrilling and has more Literotica content.

Gratitude to all of you who follow and encourage me and my editor, SexyGeek, my brother in arms in the battle against the beasts of grammar, plot holes and character development.

*******

An unexpected weight fell on me, forcing me to expel all the air in my lungs. Whatever it was that had attacked me, was still sitting on me, preventing me from moving or fighting back. In my half-asleep state, I remembered that in old times on Earth they believed that nightmares were induced by small demons that sat on people's chests. What if that had some kind of real base in this world and I was being attacked by some creature, like happened yesterday with the Stormcrow?

"By the Holy Seven! Wake up already, Master!" Merita's pleading voice came to me through the sheets and covers.

After squirming a few moments, I was able to give a muffled answer, "You're going to choke me to death!"

She uncovered my head and stared at me frowning, still sitting on my chest and making it hard for me to breathe. "By the Gods, Master, I didn't know you were so sluggish in the mornings! Van'Oner and Van'Yalgir will be here in an hour or so to take you to the training grounds and you are still wrapped in your sheets like a croquette! You need to groom yourself and get some breakfast." She stroked my cheek and added, "You also might use some shaving. I have urgent matters to attend at the High city, so I'll only be able to make you a simple lunch if I am to help you in getting ready. So, is there anything I can help you with, Master?"

I did what I could to answer her with a strained voice, "Can you start by getting off me?"

She jumped off the bed and after getting her dress straight again she bowed and started apologizing. I started to get up on my elbows to sit on the bed while gasping for air. "Jesus Christ!" I said when my breathing started to normalize.

Merita tilted her head with one of her bright smiles and asked, "Who?"

On the bedside table I found hot water, a towel and shaving tools. The last ones were even older in style than those my grandfather used. I shot Merita a doubtful look and asked, "I haven't used one of these razors before, could you shave me?"

"Oh, don't worry, Master. I can shave you soft as a baby's butt, hu-hu. My Nue'He used to ask me to shave him at least once a week. He used to say it was good for the partnership communication."

Very unusual of her, she went silent without going on with her rattle, so I felt forced to say, "If it brings bad memories or if you feel bad in any other way, you don't have to force yourself. I'll manage somehow."

She chuckled and said while starting to prepare the shaving foam, "I really appreciate your concern, Master. You are a very nice person, and I don't have the least doubt that Van'Ralya will be very happy by your side. But this is my job, and I mustn't let personal feelings interfere with my duties. In any case, shaving you doesn't bring bad memories or make me feel bad in any way. Just the opposite, it reminds me of the time when my life was complete. Even though it was a simple life, I was happy and felt fulfilled."

As she took the razor in her hand, she went silent to focus on her task and I felt thankful for that. Who knows what disaster could have happened if she had kept going on with her chatter while working on my face. Remember what I told you about the scar in my left wrist and not getting distracted if you're using sharp or pointy tools? As Merita finished, I told her she could let me alone to finish and start preparing the breakfast. She pointed at the set of clothes on a chair to inform me that was the common dressing for training in warm weather and left the room swiftly. We were running out of time, so I rapidly used the hot water and the towel to wash my face and swipe off some of the sweat I had accumulated since my bath yesterday. I was planning to have a bath after the training was finished. Talking about training, my clothes for said task consisted of simple, brown working trousers, a sleeve-less white shirt and low boots.

I went down to the dining room when Merita was serving the breakfast. As I sat down I was flabbergasted again. This meal consisted of a big cup of milk and toast with an egg fried sunny side-up on top of it. The toast was wide as a dish and the fried egg covered it completely, and the yolk of this egg was more or less as big as a tennis ball.

Merita chuckled at my expression and explained, "Gengas start laying eggs during their second stage of maturity, but these eggs are all infertile. When they reach their third and final stage, their eggs are almost twice as big as this one and develop a much harder shell. Sorry, Master. If we had had more time I could have prepared you something better than just a toast with egg and a jar of milk with honey. One of these days, I'm going to..."

"I don't mean to be rude, Merita, but you said both of us had tasks to attend. Now that we're at it, what did you mean when you said 'the High city'?"

"As you surely have noticed, a big part of the city is directly carved into the face of the mountain. We call the northern part, that is physically higher than the rest, the High City. That is where the Chapel, the Hall of Shields and the other government and justice buildings are located. It also has the plaza with the space needed for festivals and multitudinous religious services. Right now we are at the eastern side, known as the Residential District. Given that the Western entrance is where most of the merchants come from, that side is called the Commercial District, where the market and shops are located, and the south side is the Artisans' District, for obvious reasons. Even though artisans have their workshops there, they still have apprentices or business partners that run a shop for them on the Commercial District." She took out from her apron a familiar object made mostly of crystal and looked at its flat surface. "Oh, my, look at the time. I have to get going right now, Master. Sorry for leaving you alone, but this is an appointment I can't afford to miss or be late to."

She lifted the front of her skirt to not step on it while running and left the room like a bullet, leaving me in a fearsome battle against the monster egg in my dish. I was having the last sip from my jar when someone knocked the door. I stood up to go answer the door, thinking that surely Oner and Yalgir had arrived when I froze for a moment between two opposite reactions. My mind was telling me to go open the door and my muscular memory was telling me to take my dish and jar to the kitchen as I had been doing for years now. In the end I schooled myself to go open the door, feeling a little guilty for leaving the dirty stuff on the table so Merita had to clean after me when she came back.

"Ready to move out, little brother?" was Oner's greeting right when I opened the door. He had tied his hair in a ponytail at the back of his head and was dressed like me.

I hesitated for a second, trying to figure out how such a delicate and complex operation could be possible in an environment like this before answering, "All set, except for the door. The maid has left on an errand and hasn't left a key for me to lock it before leaving."

Oner laughed and Yalgir chuckled. The first told me, "Technically speaking, guest houses like this one belong to my father. Nobody in his right mind would dare to enter uninvited." At that point in time, none of us knew that there had already been one person to enter, and that it wouldn't be the last time.

I limited myself to closing the door and followed them to the training grounds, which were less than five minutes by walk from my house. Along the way, we crossed paths with people heading the same way who could be easily divided in two groups: the unproven young who went for their basic training and the older people who went for a more specialized training.

The grounds were a big space of hard brown dirt with irregular patches of weeds. It was divided in sections according to different kinds of fighters and surrounded by trees. Somehow those trees made me uneasy because I couldn't shake off the feeling of someone staring at me from them.

The first thing Oner and Yalgir did was to go to the side for close combat training and start gearing themselves with training armors. Yalgir chose a set of light leather armor and Oner put on a heavier one reinforced with metal plates.

Noticing the way I was looking at them, Yalgir spoke, "I use light armor because I favor speed and evasion. Oner is a Dreadnought class, he's a Knight that uses the Challenges from the Code of Honor to balance his fights. That's why he uses the heaviest armors to gain in defense and resistance."

Once they were geared, they guided me to the different racks to explain me how things worked so I could decide in which categories I was going to specialize. Given we were already there, we started at the weapons rack.

Oner started the lesson. "Your first crucial choice is your weapon. It will be what defines your fighting style and your class, because most of the time the rest of your gear is dictated by the weapon style you choose. Many weapons can be used either with one or two hands, but there are weapons that can only be used with two hands. For example, a spear can be used to pierce and sometimes to cut, so it can be used alone or in combination with several kinds of shields. On the other hand, pole weapons are based mostly in wide swings to cut enemies, so it would be difficult to use in case you try to combine it with a shield. Even with that, strange classes sprout here and there, like Sagittarius, a kind of Archer that equips medium armor and learns a technique to equip an armguard in the same arm they wear their long bows."

Yalgir took from here and made a wide gesture of his arm to signal the array of different training weapons. "As I have learned from another man from your world that lives in my land, in your games the weapons are divided in just a few classes: swords, blunt weapons, daggers, bows and staffs for Mages, not much more and some of those games don't even have some of the ones I have mentioned. The choices in real life are obviously much wider. We have three kinds of swords, short blades (a category to sum up daggers and short swords) and the list goes on, no point in explaining you everything when you will be specializing in just one."

I came closer to inspect the weapons while Yalgir went on. "Knowing about your fight with the Orcs, my guess is that you are a man who prefers swords, so I'm going to stick to explaining the three classes available. The standard is the straight sword. It has a good thrust and a decent edge, but is slower than the other two. In comparison, the curved sword has better slashing damage and is faster, but has poor thrusting. The third choice is the rapier, that has superb speed and penetration, but it deals almost no damage when trying to cut and you can't be combined with a shield because it would rob you of the agility you need to use it properly."

I was looking at the available training swords when I saw one that resembled a Japanese Katana, so I got it right away without thinking. I already had a training Katana at home, and I knew the basic moves through one of the many illustrated guides my father had. Together with it I had what I used to call "two pieces of iron that looked like real katanas." In the end, I know it would be much more simple to call them "decorative swords." Both men looked at me before Oner said, "So you will be keeping to the curved sword. Yalgir is very adept at it, he can teach you some good moves... if he wants to."

"It's not just a matter of if I want to or not. He needs it, and even though it's going to take time, I'm mostly sure that he is going to end up becoming a great warrior and a worthy rival like you. Maybe something even more interesting than you, Oner," retorted Yalgir. That gave me the feeling that he was a man who loved fighting and that he was training me for the sole reason of having a duel with me in the future.

Oner took a stick covered in wool and Yalgir armed himself with similar stick, but this one even more curved than my fake Katana and a shorter stick for his left hand. "In a real fight, I use a wide-bladed saber in my right hand and a dagger in the left," was his explanation.

From wizard robes to heavy armors, there were four kinds of protective gear based on the quantity of plates and weight of the materials. Oner took his time to tell me the difference between each other while Yalgir got more restless with each minute.

"Well, at least you are teaching him the fundamentals without trying to force him into being a battle snail like you, Oner," chuckled Yalgir at his explanation.

I quickly said, "I think I'm going to stick with the medium armor for now. I like the idea of having a heavy armor that isn't too heavy to move around. You know, the point is that there are attacks that no armor can block, and in those situations is good to have enough freedom of movement to jump out of the way." I felt the need to jump between them before they started a discussion that could escalate. They seemed to have some kind of friendly rivalry based on combat acknowledgment.

Yalgir said, "It is not a bad choice. Even people who go to battle with light armor start their training with medium armor to tune up their muscles."

Given that he was the most used to the task, it was Oner who taught me the right way to dress myself in medium training armor. Probably it was the lack of habit, but it was much heavier than I thought it would be at first. Oner noticed my uneasiness and told me, "Even though we call them training armors, the truth is that they are heavier than actual combat armors. The point behind this is that if you get used to a big weight, in real combat your gear feels as if it wasn't there. That's what Yalgir was trying to mean just a moment ago. Armor-handling, also called armor expertise, is an important ability because it determines how much armor weight you can carry without hindering yourself."

Yalgir pointed to the last rack and told him, "Have him make his last choice. You are more suited to that task, and I'm getting tired of all this chatter. My muscles and my blood are getting cold."

The last rack was loaded with shields of several shapes and sizes along some strange bracers I had never seen. I understood what Yalgir had said; maybe using a different weapon in each hand didn't qualify him to teach me about shields, so Oner took his place. "You can choose not to wear anything on your left arm for several reasons, the main one being you want to focus on a pure two-handed style. Another reason is wanting to learn a second weapon, the way Yalgir uses a dagger. For now that choice is out of your reach; you lack expertise. But you may be able to learn the use of throwing blades. Though speaking again of how you have already fought, I think it would be wiser to explain you the three categories of shields." Saying this, he picked up a common shield, one of the smaller ones and one of the strange bracers I had noticed before.

"You don't need too many explanations about this one, it is a common shield. In exchange for the extra protection, it is heavy and reduces your agility. Also, you are forced to combine it with one-handed weapons because its area is wide and you need your hand and part of the arm to keep it in place." He left the shield on the rack and showed me the smaller shield. "This is an armguard. Obviously it protects less than a shield because it has less area, but it doesn't hinder you so much and leaves your left hand free enough to perform certain two-handed movements with your weapon of choice." Leaving the armguard in the rack, he proceeded to enlighten me about the strange item that seemed so out of place. "The last in the list is the rune. This bracelet projects a glowing emblem that acts as an energy shield. On the good side we have that it has the same area as a common shield and offers a fair defense against magic. Also, it can be combined with a two-handed style without losing much in terms of strength or attack speed. The drawbacks are that it doesn't have a Physical presence, so you can't use it to shield-punch your enemy, and that it has the lowest physical defense out of the three types. That is why it is called 'Mage shield'. Many kinds of magic users combine the staff with a rune for protection."

The theoretical lesson was starting to get overwhelming, but I understood that it was necessary for my well-being. Also, I wasn't able to shake off the feeling that attracted my attention to the trees. "I'll choose the armguard. More or less for the same reasons I chose the medium armor. Also, I like the idea of having a shield that gives me some freedom of movement and tactical flexibility to strike with one hand or two. More chances to catch an enemy off-guard."

Oner scratched his chin while thinking out loud, "Medium armor, curved sword and armguard, right? If you want, I can teach you the basic skills from the Code of Honor. That way, you'll become a full-fledged Samurai class." Some part of my head knew that he had used a different word, but my linguistic treatment had translated it into Samurai as the closest match in my vocabulary.

Leaving aside the notion of becoming a Samurai, I had a doubt I needed to solve. "What is this of the 'Code of Honor'? You say it in a way that makes me think it is not just words."

"The Code of Honor is a minor form of Magic that lets you impose rules on your enemies or on yourself. For example, 'Oath of Swiftness' increases your attack speed every time you defeat an enemy for a short time. On the other side, Challenges apply only on your enemy; like the 'Challenge of Mist' that makes you more difficult to see and be hit by your enemies. But well, that's for when you have passed the basic training. You will be starting with Yalgir right after you do your warm-up."

This way, I spent the next hours practicing the basic moves. Yalgir was merciless and used his wooden sword to correct my stance frequently and made me repeat each movement countless times in order to forge my muscle memory, or the way they called it, 'make my body remember the right forms'.

After that, the challenge escalated and I was taught to willingly use my Spirit in a basic move called 'Power slash'. My first tries gave no results. To my embarrassment, one the attempts failed so badly that I fell to the ground. Not only Oner and Yalgir laughed at me, but so did some of the bystanders that had come to take a curious look at my training. I stood up dirty, angry and embarrassed, and vented my frustration in a hit of the sword that sounded strangely loud and raised a small cloud of dust from the ground. I was told to remember the feeling, because I had found the standing point in the use of my Spirit in Physical skills.

But the worst had yet to come. The next part of the training was a sparring match against Yalgir, and if I had thought he was merciless during the first stages, he was about to teach me a new definition of the word. He used his two weapons to pummel me, and even though training weapons were covered in wool for protection, I knew perfectly well that some of the hits I was receiving were hard enough to leave bruises. Oner cautioned him against going too seriously against a beginner, but he countered by saying that I had already beaten two Orcs. The thing was starting to get serious; his attacks were becoming fiercer by the second and I didn't have the skill to fight two weapons coming at me from different sides at the same time. At some point, he screamed at me and I instantly lost my stamina and fell to one knee. All I could do was raise my left arm to cover my head with the armguard.

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