How much time had passed since I appeared in this world? Not much. What did I want back then… To sit and do nothing? Well, I got what I wanted, and I was already fed up with everything.
After I had saved the entire planet, it turned out that my recent partners had acquired a bit of power over the world. My suspicions had been right all along — I was being used! Sure, they were generous enough to provide me with what they considered to be a perfect life. I got a home, money, free time... Samantha even wept on my shoulder and said that she would miss me. But what was stopping them from paying me a visit? No one came to see me! I wasn’t about to believe the stories that a price was put on my head and that criminals from all over the world were looking for me, or that they wanted to deal with all of that before I could officially come back. I was bored out of my goddamn mind.
“How you doin’, Dan?” Stephen, a local hobo to whom, oddly enough, every clerk would give a bottle of booze or two, emerged from the nearby store. And there they were — two bottles were sticking out of his oversized coat. “Will you keep me company? You're Russian, you guys love to drink.”
“Thank you, but no,” I answered firmly. I didn’t even live here! My house was at the countryside, in a residential district. However, there was absolutely nothing to do there; but on the outskirts weren't as boring and you could always find some company. “I am here on business today.”
“I get it, you’re keeping an eye on the champion,” Stephen immediately realized what was going on. “I will stay close to you then. Although you already know my opinion about those games… Nothing but a waste of time. Do you know where all of that is coming from?”
At first, I was almost offended by what he had said about the games, but his question piqued my interest. Stephen would sometimes talk about stuff that one couldn’t find on the internet.
“You know that everyone in this day and age has an identification chip implanted in their body, which has access to our money and can heal us in case anything happens.” It was something everyone knew, even me. I implanted such a thing into my own body recently. That was when I found out about the champion battles. “Twenty years ago, someone created a program that, in turn, created something like information clusters that rely on our chips and natural anomalies. Something like the Earth’s magnetic field or traces of solar bursts.”
“So, those clusters make a champion?” I was amazed by the genius who had not only been able to think of such a thing but make it happen as well.
“Exactly, and we’re sitting next to one of those anomalies right now, waiting for new developments,” Stephen sipped half a bottle of beer at once and looked at me doubtingly as if I would change my mind and have some beer after all.
“Oh, damn you, give me that. I feel that I’ll be sitting here for a while.” He handed me the other bottle. I wondered how it remained cool and fresh considering that he kept it in his coat's pocket and that it was hot outside. “This is good.”
Waiting immediately became more pleasant, and it wasn’t because of the beer, but because of the good company. Stephen may be a strange fellow, but chatting with him was always interesting.
“By the way, who are you trying to catch?” Having emptied his bottle, he turned toward the shop with a look of doubt on his face, wondering should he go in to grab another one or remain where he was for a while longer.
“I don’t really care,” I admitted. “I just want to get a rare one and train them.”
That wasn’t a problem for me, especially with my experience and brains. This time I planned to follow the plan to the T. No more impulsive decisions, only precise combinations and strategies. I was able to stay on top before, but this time, I was sure that everyone would be awe-struck with what I had prepared for them. Here, in the future, everything was too comfortable. For a real gamer to be born, they would have to be brought up and trained in an atmosphere full of stress and pressure, and they would have to have the ability to work in such conditions and to win no matter what. Take, for example, the first time I went to that computer club...
Suddenly, the world around me seemed to have stopped, and the veil of nostalgia that washed over me vanished without a trace.
“Dan, I’ve been looking for you.” Just a second ago there was no one in front of me, but now one of the Fates that I had met in the last tournament was standing there. What does she want?
“I have a delivery for you… A reward for your victory.” She could read my thoughts! Don't think about her chubby cheeks… Goddamn it! Ok, don't look into her eyes and don't irritate her further. She didn't seem to seek to take vengeance on me and continued talking, “Your decision to refuse to have your wish come true has turned out to be contrary to the equilibrium, so I will have to adjust things on my own.”
Ability received: ''Curse of the Genie''
A random wish will come true once a day.
The wishes can only be material and are limited by the laws of physics.
“Why is my reward something called a Curse?” I couldn’t resist asking. Even without reading the description, it was obvious that there was a trick to it.
“No special reason, it simply happened to be like that.” It was obvious that this Fate wasn’t in a hurry to leave and that she was enjoying my confusion. She was definitely offended by that chubby cheeks thing.
“What are the conditions?”
“That means that there will be no magic.” That wasn’t much of an explanation, but she was kind enough to provide an example. “Let’s suppose that you wish to find a ton of gold, right there, in the ground under your feet. Physically, such an amount of precious metal takes up too much space, and there’s no way it could appear there. Therefore, the maximum that you could get after wishing for something like that would be a single bill under a bench.”
“And what if I wish that the equivalent of that ton appears on my bank account?” I believed I understood the logic.
“That could happen,” the Fate smiled, immediately making me think that I was missing something. “But I haven’t finished speaking. Any force must be balanced, so I will add a force-counterbalance to your gift.”
Ability received: ''Genie’s Counter Curse''
Within ten minutes after the ''Genie’s Curse'' has been activated, your opponent's random wish will come true. In the absence of one, the Counter Curse won’t be activated.
The wishes can only be material and are limited by the laws of physics.
Why did I have a feeling that this was all just another dirty trick? The Fate disappeared, having decided she had answered enough of my questions. Maybe she became self-conscious about her cheeks, who knew.
“It looks like we have guests,” I didn't notice when the world around me came back to life. Stephen’s voice announced the appearance of Scooter’s gang. That guy was a serious local authority, and fortunately, he and I coexisted in peace and understanding. I would give him money from time to time, and he would make sure that neither his people nor any other gangs touched me.
“Dan, I see you’ve become a frequent visitor here,” Scooter said, throwing a piece of iron to one of his guys, who deftly caught it. “You know, I should probably take more money from you then. You wouldn't mind, would you?”
He had such kind eyes; there was no way anyone would assume that just yesterday an unlucky businessman had been found with broken legs in his hood. To be honest, I had a lot of money and had no problem spending it. But, on the other hand, it was a bit offensive that he considered me an ordinary milk cow. I surely didn’t know how to fight, and my bare fists wouldn’t do much against such a crowd. If I was supposed to defend a girl, I would go all in but in this situation... I could, of course, complain to my friends, but then both Scooter and the whole city would be turned into dust. I couldn’t live here in peace anymore if that were to happen. I would have to move again which would get in the way of my plans to get myself a champion and win the world tournament. The qualification round was just around the corner, and I haven't started training yet.
“I thought you would take the hint…” Scooter pretended to frown in discontent and stretched out his hand, demanding his crowbar back. “Or do I need more convincing?”
Oh, I wished they'd shove that crowbar where the sun didn't shine.
“Why don’t you go to hell?” I wasn’t a fan of giving up, even when it came to games. Jumping to my feet I was ready to sprint away when the situation changed suddenly and dramatically.
“Charlie, what are you doing?” I let the bandits out of my sight literally for a second, but at the next moment Scooter was on his knees with eyes wide open, and the crowbar, as I had imagined it just a couple of seconds ago, was sticking out of a… rather uncomfortable place.
“I don’t know how it happened!” A huge, muscular guy with a child-like face was standing with his hands in the air as if he couldn’t realize what he had just done.
“Ha haha!” Stephen's hoarse laughter broke the silence. “Well, you sure do amaze me, Dan! When did you find out about Scooter’s plans and managed to bribe this kid? Did you hypnotize him?”
He continued laughing, and the gangsters, who became even more confused in the meantime, picked up their whining boss and rushed in the direction of the nearest clinic. The Fate did say that she would make a random wish come true. A random one! A mere, poorly phrased thought could become a reality. Am I supposed to just live with that? Will I have to keep track of all of my thoughts now? This was a trap! Wait, what about the Counter? Scooter had been my opponent in this situation; would his wish come true now? Having looked around, I calmed down once I made sure that no one was approaching me from behind.
“Curse you!” The gypsy from the fortunetelling parlor on the corner, who had come out to have a smoke, suddenly cursed me, and then, with eyes wide with surprise, she went back inside.
“What was that?” Stephen, who still hadn’t resolved his dilemma about having one more beer, glanced in the direction of the parlor.
“She’s crazy,” I shrugged, silently exhaling with relief at the same time.
The description clearly stated: no magic. Scooter's wish seemed to have been wasted. At least I thought that was it. What else could have he wished for except a curse? It was good that he wished for a curse in general, instead of imagining something more precise.
Another odd thing had started to occur recently. I was able to notice minor details. Not just notice them; I also understood why and how they had occurred. I believed that all of this was the result of my communication with the aristocrats. It was to be expected after all, considering that I was constantly next to one of the most intelligent people in the world. It was natural that such a company had effect on me.
“Master!” A thin, but a husky voice, came from behind me, making me almost jump in surprise.
Turning around sharply, I saw a small, yellow Goblin standing next to me.
“There’s your champion.” Stephen narrowed his eyes, looking at the strange creature. “And, apparently, he doesn’t have any problems with becoming a part of your team at all. By the way, he’s rare, just like you wanted.”
I immediately squinted and opened the description window.
Well, it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, and that dirty yellow skin didn’t look too well, but it would do. I wasn’t just any random person… I could win with such a minion. Although... I had a question.
“Why did you call me master?”
“The master’s been cruel and vile, the Goblin immediately started respecting him.” Seems he arrived just in time to see the incident with Scooter. The Goblin, just like Stephen, saw Scooter's disgrace as a good thing. Well, the more he respected me, the harder he would train, so that was a plus.
“Good… Welcome to the team.” Having pressed the necessary buttons on my bracelet, I officially registered my first champion. The only thing left to do was come up with a name for him. But first, a motivational speech. “Right now, you are weak, but I will make you stronger, I will make a true warrior out of you! Together we’ll be the best and we’ll win the World Cup!”
“A warrior?” For some reason, he seemed to pay attention to trivial things. Why was he trembling? “But I am a mage! I even have a staff.”
The shaking Goblin waved a wooden branch. He looked pathetic. The greatness of mages could never be compared to that of true warriors. I would make a decent fighter out of him. The fact that he had a preference for spells wasn’t a big deal, we could fix that. As they say, everyone has their flaws.
Why was he looking at me with such horror? Did I say all of that out loud?
Chapter One. Street Fighting
Just when I was about to grab my battle Goblin and head for the training battleground rented from the city officials, Stephen puzzled me with an unexpected request.
“Listen, your champion looks completely wild, keep an eye on him so that he doesn't attack people. Otherwise, you’ll be disqualified from the tournament and everything will be wasted.” His advice was unexpected, but true. Having been so focused on the combat part of the tournament, I lost sight of well-known facts.
“They can attack other people, too? I thought they could just fight each other.” I thought that that was how things worked for some reason. “It seemed to me that the champions are some sort of digitized illusions.”
“And you are completely right,” the hobo puzzled me even more this time. “But you must take into consideration that these illusions are based on our own chips, which makes them pretty real for us. And that, for example, the giant champions, born at the moment of some great natural disaster, are capable of destroying everything around them.”
“Holy Christ!” I whistled. “So, that means the champions can be used as weapons?”
“Yes,” Stephen smiled cunningly. “But no one would ever do that. There is a control label inscribed in the code. It will activate if you attack a living creature, instantly banning you from participating in any tournament.”
“A simple ban is enough for people to follow the rule without any violations?” To be honest, I was surprised.
“Exactly.” There was so much pride in his voice that one would think that he himself had invented the entire thing. “There’s no need for harsh laws, millions of police officers, lawyers and prosecutors… The only thing needed is just the right kind of motivation and everything falls to place on its own.”
Having given such a long and pompous speech, Stephen could not help but run off to look for another beer. As for me, I returned to my original plan.
“Let’s go and have some practice,” I turned in the Goblin’s direction. He, apparently, managed to reconcile with his fate during my conversation with Stephen. There shouldn’t be any problems; he would win once, feel the euphoria of being better than his opponent, and everything would become much easier.
“Master.” We had been walking in silence for a while when the Goblin tugged the edge of my t-shirt. “You promised you'd give me a name, remember?”
“If I’ve promised, then I'll give you a name.” This was a very important moment for any champion. The name given by the master could determine how he would perceive himself, so I had to be careful. “I don’t know any famous Goblins, but you, even though you’re yellow, look a bit like an orc. So I will name you, with pride and dignity: Durotan. That's a name fit for a real warrior, who doesn’t get distracted by useless magic tricks.”
While I was speaking, I observed my minion's reaction. His lips began to move as if he was trying to taste his new name and his forehead began to wrinkle. What was he doing?
“Tan...Is that how the leaders of the ancient Scandinavians were called?” Would you look at that? It turned out that my Goblin was a well-read guy.
“Exactly,” I answered, wondering why he would even ask me such a thing.
“And dur is an abbreviation of the Russian word durak, which means 'a fool'? So I am Durotan, the leader of fools?” How the hell did he manage to decipher that?! This wouldn’t work; I had to fix his attitude.
“Of course not.” The options feverishly spun through my head. “Do you know the ancient proverb that says: 'the law is harsh, but it is the law'?”
“Yeah,” he nodded with interest appearing in his eyes. Mages weren’t easy to deal with. They were too soft! But that was not an issue, we’ll show everyone when the time comes…
“Originally, in Latin, it's Dura lex sed lex, which means that you aren’t a leader of fools, but, on the contrary, of real warriors who are harsh and tough!” The Goblin froze for a moment, grasping what he had just heard. His eyes suddenly sparkled. And who said that real military virtues were unfamiliar to these little creatures?
We continued walking. I sent a request through my chip to take a look at my champion's characteristics. It was time to go through them in more detail and, possibly, make some adjustments to my plan.
Goblin Mage, Durotan
Attack power: 1
Basic attack: 5 (lightning)
Basic defense: 3
Mage's Staff (+1 basic damage)
Electrical charges cause damage equal to basic attack damage.
Characteristics: available after each level
Enhancements: available every 2 levels
Evolution: every 10 levels
On one hand, it was sadder than I thought; on the other, the possibilities, paired with my strategy, looked pretty good. The lower the initial characteristics were, the easier it would be to boost them. The lower you were, the easier it was not to fall but to rise. It was time to get down to business.
We reached the park where I had rented a field for myself on the city hall's website. One couldn’t simply go anywhere, unfortunately, but I was slowly getting used to this omnipresent bureaucracy. Having pointed the Goblin at the nearest tree, I sat on the ground and took out the sandwiches I had prepared in advance. They smelled delicious; having spent the whole day in a tightly closed bag, now they were giving off a sharp smell of ham, cheese, and pickles. It could have been a shock to someone who wasn’t used to it, but such things simply had to be tasted. Just like instant noodles or fish in tomato sauce. The snobs who ate fish eggs or blue cheese had no rights to reproach me about tastes.
“What should I do?” The Goblin seemed to be one of those who had an appreciation for the greater things. He was looking at my hands avidly.
“Dur,” I decided to shorten his name, to make the pronunciation easier. “Do you see that tree? Start hitting it.”
“Dur?” My champion seemed to have fallen into a stupor. Were these creatures really that vulnerable? However, he made a quick recovery. “The master is right. I can’t be called 'the lord of the warriors' yet, the nickname ‘harsh’ will do. I will not fail you, master!”
“Let’s start training then.” In all honesty, I didn't quite understand his self-reproach, but if it helped achieve the needed result... “Fists only, no magic.”
I had to add the last part when I saw Dur getting ready to launch his lightning attack. I had to break these old habits of his.
“As soon as you improve at least one of your attributes, I’ll treat you with a sandwich.” Having given it some thought, I decided to sweeten the deal.
I didn’t know how much food could inspire a Goblin, but he approached the task with all his heart. His punches were slow and his hands reminded me of boiled sausages for some reason, but the rhythmic sound of his blows evoked optimism...
…optimism which began to fade just an hour later. Two-three hours later, I started to think that, maybe, I was wrong to have believed the articles read on the internet about training the champions. But, Dur carried on. Unlike me, he couldn't idly wait, he had to try his best.
Your champion's attack power has been increased by 1.
Your champion's defense has been increased by 1.
Your champion's health has been increased by 5.
“You did it!” Without holding back an enthusiastic scream, I leaped to my feet, grabbed the Goblin and joyfully spun him around. “To be honest, I was already becoming desperate and was even considering training you to be a mage. You didn't let me down! I’m so proud of you!”
Why were Dur’s lips quivering? Was he upset?
New common characteristic unlocked: Villainy
Increases the chance of noticing an enemy’s secret attack.
Increases your chances of landing a successful secret attack.
It seemed that my bad luck streak has come to an end. Such additional characteristics were a rare thing, I believe. If I tried hard, I would be one step closer to reaching my goal.
“What's going on here?” Dur had already disconnected from the world, having focused on the sandwich that smelled even stronger now, so I was the only one who turned to our new guest.
She was wearing a pair of leather pants and a leather jacket, from under which the edges of a button-up shirt were sticking out, and high-heeled, heavy steel-toe boots. A police stun gun was attached to her belt, and her hair was pink. She seemed to have been entirely made up of contradictions.
“We’re training,” I decided not to pay attention to her tone. “I am training the champion who will win the next World Cup.”
“Do you seriously think that a simple rare champion, especially after such useless training, will be able to defeat anyone?” I must admit, those were valid arguments.
Dur’s enhancements — including the new abilities and his weapon — could be received once every two levels. Epic champions could turn them over with each new level, and legendary champions could use them a few times on the same level. The way things were, it seemed that I had no chance. The truth was far from it, and it was exactly why I had chosen this type of training for my champion. He would become a warrior and he wouldn’t win because he knew all sorts of techniques, but because he developed a small, but extremely effective, arsenal. He would be a warrior who would defeat his opponents in one or two blows. I knew a few cases in which such an approach brought results. Take, for example, the king of football, Pele — he could only do two tricks, but no one ever knew which one he would use at the given moment, so the great striker could easily pass through any defenders and score.
“Why do you care? Would you like to challenge us?” Having given the girl a probing look, I thought that a sparring partner would come in handy. “If it means anything to you, I have only caught my champion today, so you have a chance to win.”
At that moment, I remembered that I was talking to a girl. And they, as we all knew, didn’t like to lose. For us, men, what mattered was the process itself, a serious opponent, excitement, and only then would the victory mean something. But girls were completely different; the only thing that mattered to them was the result.
“The name's Jessica Galloway. I’ll be seeing you tomorrow at 11AM.” Having immediately turned her back to me, the pink-haired stranger disappeared into the approaching twilight. And here I thought that it would be nice to get some rest for a change.
It had been a long day. All in all, everything went well! This was the first time I felt truly alive since I had been thrown into this place. To be a player was for life! Of course, the Fate’s gift was a bit confusing, but it seemed simple enough; if I controlled my thoughts and wishes, I could avoid activating it. For a trained mind, that shouldn’t be too difficult. Having recalled Dur, I called a cab and arrived home some twenty minutes later.
A light dinner and a bed covered with fresh, crispy linen meant that I could relax and let my mind roam. I had to win tomorrow. I needed to prove to myself that I could achieve something without the help of the aristocrats. They were probably watching me now and were laughing, thinking that without their brains, money, and support I couldn’t deal with anything. As if that was going to happen! I was capable of doing stuff on my own! Tomorrow was just the first step. Then there was the qualification phase, followed by the World Cup and then, at the very end, the final game, where I could prove my right to consider myself the very best. At that moment, my thoughts became blurred and my mind drifted away.
The morning came earlier than I'd wanted it to. For the first few seconds, my body hiccoughed like an engine that had just been started, but the moment the today’s challenge popped up into my mind the engine started roaring, and I jumped to my feet and rushed to get ready. This was my first battle after a long break. The fact that I wouldn’t be fighting on my own, but with the help of my champion, made things a bit more complicated. But such difficulties wouldn't stop me.
Having grabbed a couple of sandwiches, I jumped out onto the street and decided to walk to my destination. I also needed to get some fresh air. I could discuss our strategy with Dur as well. It was a shame that I didn’t know what kind of champion this Jessica girl had, but having considered my plans for the future, it didn’t even matter.
“Look, the most important thing is that you don’t waste any on your lightning. It takes about three seconds to activate. It’s better to use those moments to get close and hit your opponent a few times.” Dur was still weak, but that was all right. He should get used to proper fighting as soon as possible.
“Even if my lightening can damage the opponent more?” The yellow Goblin jumped up in revolt, trying to prove to me that his magical abilities weren't useless. “How many times will I have to hit them with my fists before I win?”
“How much will your lightening help you if the enemy’s attacks are so fast that you won't even manage to activate it?” I hated that I had to waste time explaining obvious things to him, but there wasn’t anything else I could do. If your student didn't know why he should do things one way and not the other, he would waste time doubting and worrying, ultimately giving his opponent an extra chance to win.
“So, I should just run at him and start hitting?” There were both hopelessness and tenacity in Dur’s voice. He was a pretty normal guy, even though he was a mage, he still had guts.
“Don’t forget what I’ve told you.” I felt a bit bad that I had to ruin his mood. “Don't forget to dodge his blows, get up and repeat everything all over again.”
“I got it!” Dur's voice didn’t sound very confident. In all honesty, such things were actually quite difficult to understand; they could only be experienced, and it was great that we got a sparring partner so quickly.
The moment we got to the street leading to the park I spotted Jessica. She was standing at the same place as she did last night. Next to her was a small, floating purple Snake.
Poisonous Whip Snake, Erbokian
Her champion looked good, but it wasn't too powerful. Moreover, it was clearly a mage. Defeating it would help get Dur back on the right track. Was the level really that important if you could get close and start attacking at the very beginning? Yes, my champion was weaker than a true-born warrior at this stage, but there were some advantages to that as well. As a mage, he had a good magical defense, which I hoped would help him deflect status effects ''stun'' or ''slowed down''. These were the things with which mages would most often try to stop the champions in close combat. Maybe I hadn’t taken everything into account. But little details could be adjusted in the process.
“It's good that you arrived early,” Jessica finally noticed me. “We can quickly finish the presentation part and get to the point. I hope you’ve noticed that I’ve decided to take my personal champion, instead of the family fighter. Of course, you don’t stand a chance either way, but your defeat won’t be so terrible at least.”
She was tense for some reason, but her personal troubles were not my concern.
“Then I suggest we start right away,” I said, keeping my voice as calm as possible.
“Duel!” Jessica snapped, launching her Snake into the center of my training field. Why was she so nervous?
“Duel!” I beckoned Dur in the same direction.
The announcement appeared in the air, confirming the validity of the fight, and something like a protective dome appeared over the champions. It was the system's way of protecting the passersby and the infrastructure of the city from any potential damage. Not even the most shattering attack could break through.
All I could do now was observe and hope that my advice would help Dur win. We were doing great at the beginning of the battle. He quickly rushed forward and even managed to land about five blows before the Snake attacked, spitting acid and managing to hurt him. Despite Dur's magical defense, the green slush removed almost half of the Goblin’s health. He was crumpling from pain, and even got knocked down. This couldn't have been easy for him; he was born for long distance fights and was now being forced to fight in close combat. Could he endure all that?
“Dur! Hold on! Remember that you are a man! You have balls of steel!” Screaming, I tried to support the Goblin, who couldn’t get back to his feet. I wanted everything to work out. I wanted him to make it...
Legendary characteristic unlocked: Will
Will lowers the chance of being influenced by any negative effects and makes the caster immune to mental attacks. As long as you have health points, you will get up and remain on your feet.
“Erby! Close the distance and finish him!” Jessica had also decided to raise her voice and made the typical mistake of overestimating her capabilities. Why on earth would you come closer and give us a chance to re-enter the clench? You should have just kept your distance, but no. However, it would be foolish to not use such an opportunity.
“Dur! Trash them!” I don't know how he had done it, but his attack turned out to be successful.
He rushed forward, but instead of hitting the opponent with his fist, he hit him with his staff, using it like a dagger. Our hard work paid off after all. He didn't use magic, but fought like a true warrior.
Your champion dealt a critical blow (damage X2), hitting a weak spot (damage X4) and inflicting fatal injuries to internal organs (damage X4).
Your champion has reached level 4.
Ha! We did it! Having a hard time holding back the joy that was swelling inside of me and the desire to stick my tongue out, I politely bowed to Jessica. Thanks to her, I could now improve Dur a little bit more. Once we are done with being decent, I would give my attention to someone who actually deserved it.
“Come here, champion,” I beckoned Dur with my finger but he was already hopping toward me. When did his walk become so rhythmical and jingly?
When you were the one responsible for the safety of a family that had influence over half of the world, even if that world was the world of crime, it meant that you absolutely had no time for yourself. Especially when someone like him appeared so close to the territories of the clans, upon which even the federal government hadn’t stepped foot on in ages. He looked like your average Joe. However, my people immediately noticed traces of injections that were used to change his features, which could only mean one thing — that he was hiding from someone. Of course, there was also the option that he had come here to spy on us, but if that was the case, then it would have been much easier to send an undercover expert to do it, instead of changing someone’s appearance. I doubted that Dan was so unique that they were ready to accept such a big risk.
Although, I must admit, there was something about him. Talking to him was interesting and his view of this world was rather peculiar and blurred. Sometimes, it seemed like I was talking to a child, and a minute later he would say something that would blow my mind. For example, he had somehow managed to manipulate Charlie to attack the leader of his gang. I had to intervene so that they wouldn’t beat him up for such a blatant use of powerful hypnosis. It would be a pity to lose such an interlocutor. Not to mention that some mysterious stranger paid us to make sure that not a single hair from Dan’s head would go missing while he was on our land. We always kept our promises.
But none of that was important now. What really struck me was what happened after we had parted ways; that was spectacular. When the two of them were almost out of sight, I got a chance to witness the most curious scene. Dan’s champion was throwing a tantrum and he didn’t use force to stop him, he didn’t try to talk to him like an adult. He did the completely opposite thing. He used the most childish logic, having instantly estimated the personality of his minion. Not bad, Dan, well played. It will be interesting to see where they would end up if they participate in a fight.
Perhaps I could hint to Jessica to take a walk in the direction of the park tomorrow morning where Dan trained his champion — she went jogging around that area anyway. We could see how that meeting would end. I think that my niece will be surprised. She could use a couple of good smacks and a man like Dan was perfect for such a job. As for me, well, it would be wise to observe where all of this would lead to.
Even though the situation seemed to be harmless for now, an outsider did show up on our family’s territory, and influential people did ask us to take care of him. I simply couldn’t let that run its course.
To be a daughter of a mob boss was a fairy tale. There were no routines and strict obligations, and you could do anything... Nonsense! These cheap novels were trash. They could bright a person's day up for a few moments, but there wasn’t a word of truth in them. Rarely when did I have free time and was able to, like now, take a walk around the neighborhood without any commitment, with just the wind blowing in my face and puddles soaking my pants and boots.
I was already on my way home when a strange couple attracted my attention. A master and his champion — a mage at that — were training. The vile Goblin was hitting the tree with his bare hands, increasing his health and endurance. Such training was useful for any class. But what I couldn’t understand was why would anyone waste their time on training ordinary attacks, when they could be raising their HP twice as fast and improving their basic skills? It looked like he was bullying his champion. I never could stand such people.
“What's going on here?” Maybe I could restore some order, considering that it was all happening on my family’s territory.
The Goblin’s master said something, and I replied reflexively; my mind was focused on something else. How did he make the Goblin so masochistic? Those green creatures, or yellow in this case, were creatures of darkness and preferred to cause trouble to others, not to themselves.
What if I took a closer look? There were some rotten sandwiches lying about, which were probably used as the means of manipulation. But food could only serve as a trigger. What was this stranger using as the basis of his manipulation? He didn’t even introduce himself! He had no manners at all!
“Would you like to challenge us?” asked the stranger. Why not, this would allow me to see how he handled his champion. I could find out something interesting. He almost had me in the end when he made a sarcastic comment about his champion’s level. Despite the way I was brought up, I barely managed to hold myself back.
Having left the Goblin and his master to continue their training, I headed home. I will have fun tomorrow, putting that presumptuous insolent fellow in his place. My uncle was waiting for me at the door. He suggested that I take a walk to the park tomorrow and keep an eye out for something unusual. If I hadn’t met that strange couple today, I wouldn’t have paid attention to his not so subtle hints. It seemed that I wasn’t the only one curious about that stranger. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pressure my uncle in order to find out more. He was older and I had to treat him with respect. However, I did find out the stranger’s name — Dan Snowden. It sounded strange; as if it was followed by trouble. I had the feeling that I had already heard it somewhere.
I didn’t want to overthink it; it would make it seem as if I was worried. What could a level one champion, without an epic class and evolutions, do against a level five champion? I decided not to take one of the family champions with me. That wouldn’t be interesting at all. I could probably use the Snake I was given for my last birthday. Both its appearance and attacks were unusual, and that was just the thing I needed. How could Dan hope that he had the tiniest chance of victory when he had challenged me without any knowledge about what kind of champion I had? How arrogant! To put such a man in his place was a holy deed, indeed.
During the night I managed to almost calm down but when then following morning Dan ignored my noble act of choosing a champion who was almost equal to his, I lost it. The only option for me was to destroy him. The battle began quite expectedly; the mage, trained as if he was a warrior, rushed forward and tried to deflect Erbokian's attacks with a hail of blows. It would take him too long to win if he relied purely on the power of his blows. Even if we take the increased magical defense into consideration, it was obvious that, sooner or later, my Snake would use his poisonous spittle and end the battle.
“Dur! Hold on! Remember that you are a man! You have balls of steel!”
His champion lying on the ground, Dan kept shouting nonsense. Damn it, he didn’t really look like someone who had realized that he had no chances of winning this fight. Was he a complete idiot? Of course… How did I miss it?! He didn’t only train the Goblin’s body, but also his mind, turning a very mediocre champion into a dangerous weapon. I couldn’t imagine how he managed to brainwash this yellow monkey, but the creature, groaning in pain, rose to its feet! That was a magical creature! A creature of darkness! Those two factors were supposed to be enough to make him curl up into a ball and whine in pain, not make him get up and try to continue the fight!
But that didn’t mean a thing! The power was still on my side! I would crush that snob!
My sister looked a bit irritated today, so, having taken advantage of the fact that uncle had freed me from duty, I decided to follow her. As it turned out, she had challenged some stranger and lost. I didn’t know who this man was, but he got the best of her.
First, he had shown his weakness and then he waited for Jessica's Snake to come closer. In general, it looked like a standard trick in which the disoriented opponent was cornered and prevented from dodging an incoming attack, or recovering. All the mage champions used it, and the stranger, of course, had managed to predict it. I didn’t know what kind of strategy he and his Goblin had, but dealing about 60 damage with one blow was impressive.
Maybe I should challenge them, too? My sister would be grateful. As if it wasn’t enough that they had beaten her, they also humiliated her. The guy did a great job pretending that his low level champion beating a more powerful opponent was nothing unusual. The mocking noble bow, that wasn’t carried out till the end, put Jessica on the same level with the yellow shorty! We weren't aristocrats, but we still knew the rules of decency.
I had no idea how my sister managed to endure all that.
The master was cruel and vile. It was good to serve such a man, but it was necessary to explain to him that he should be cruel and vile not to Dur, but to the enemy. He had absolutely no respect for the power of magic. Never mind that, I would secretly practice my secret magic strike and show him my strength.
In the meantime, I had to fight with my fists. It was painful and annoying but it was nice to see that my master was sincerely worried about my success. Unlike other people, he didn’t hesitate to eat tasty rotten meat with me, to talk to me, to tell me what he expected from me. He treated me as an equal, not just as a weapon. Maybe I got lucky with him.
It was my first fight, and I seemed to be losing. As I had told him, I was too weak to stand against those who had already achieved something. One blow was enough for my body to stop obeying. I wish I could curl up and do nothing! I didn’t hear a word of what the master was saying, my consciousness had disappeared until a strange ringing in my pants suddenly stopped everything. Moving wasn’t as comfortable as it used to be, but I was able to get up.
I had no idea how it happened, never before had one simple wish been enough for me to repeat a maneuver of one of the top champions. But I had done it! Maybe I was special? Maybe I was the chosen one? I would have to think that over…
But first, breakfast.
Dan, I miss you. How are things over there? When will everything get back to normal, so that we could see each other again?!