I logged into Ancient Tribes of Earth briefly after my birthday party, and was surprised by the explosion of “Happy Birthday!” messages that covered the screen. Apparently, Brandon had let slip that there was a party today. After spending some time thanking everyone, I listened for a bit about the numerous directions people in the guild wanted to go. Sadly, I hadn’t been the best leader over the past couple weeks, being a bit distracted. With the number of people we had, I figured we could take on everything people wanted to do, so I started assigning tasks to each section of the guild and told people to put in transfer requests to the appropriate generals for anything in which they were interested. First and foremost, our guild hall would be expanding to a full-fledged city with each person getting to pick their residence. I went through the countless building possibilities that the game allowed and picked out what I felt would be most useful to us, even adding a marketplace to the town for those who preferred crafting over everything. After selecting the buildings, I tested out the game’s “suggestion” feature for building layout. That game’s random number generator was obviously superior to anything I had seen. The city looked absolutely beautiful. With another click, I was able to send out the design to everyone in the guild, allowing them to see what resources we needed as well as the layout. No one complained.
I chatted in guild for a while longer before heading to bed. Once there, all I could think about was Alma. I wondered why she wasn’t on tonight, since I expected to see “Eseld” online already. Thinking back on how we parted, I wondered if she needed to get back to work. She seemed to be participating in countless meetings when I went to fetch her earlier. Would Alma really dress up as Eseld for a convention? I had trouble imagining her beautiful, auburn hair being dyed a shade of blue. Then there were the ears. Eseld was an elf. Would Alma really put on pointed ears for a cosplay? Her outfit, now that I thought of it, wasn’t nearly as revealing as most female character’s in the game. Elf Hottie’s hardly covered anything. What was Brandon going to do for cosplay? For a terrifying moment, I considered that he might just wear Elf Hottie’s normal attire, but I quickly pushed that thought out of my head. Thinking of Alma dressed in white with her shoulders bare under her fur-lined cape was much more enjoyable. What would she do about her hair though? I couldn’t imagine it dyed, and there was far too much to hide under a wig. I fell asleep with that question still running through my mind.
Sunday was not the leisurely day for which I had hoped. I really needed to look ahead on my schedule more often. I was far too reliant on Mila informing me what was next. When I arrived in the kitchen, I found everyone, even Alma and Portentia, eating together. I thanked Marco again for all of his work yesterday, and he assured me once more that he enjoyed the challenge. I barely sat down when Alma informed me that I was running late and needed to hurry. That’s when I finally looked at my schedule. In ten minutes, I was supposed to give my normal lessons with Brandon, Brenna, and Emma, although Portentia would be joining us now. I was tempted to suggest skipping the lessons until Portentia told me how she was looking forward to them. Then a large chunk of the day was labeled as “Convention Day Training”, which probably meant Aaliyah was showing up. I tried to eat quickly, but I kept getting distracted by Alma’s voice. Then I became more distracted by the sight of her. I could hardly believe that she was eating with us. Why did I keep her away for so long? Well, she did ensnare me in an evil plot to manipulate my life, but… having her here was still pleasant. Not finishing in time, I asked Marco to stick my plate in the fridge, determined to finish it later. He complained about how the food would not be nearly the same reheated, but I assured him I would still enjoy it, though he remained unconvinced.
I started the first lesson by asking Portentia to spar with Brandon, which required an explanation of the point system I used, since she had never “play fought” before. She jokingly commented that not being shot at would be weird. Brandon underestimated her greatly. Portentia was very fast and strong enough to knock him to the ground with her first punch. Brandon’s muscles bulged out more at that point, which wasn’t entirely a bad idea. I doubted he could compete with her on speed, so being able to take a hit better might help. He really was getting a bit better at anticipating attacks, and his training did show. In the end, Portentia beat him though, since she was simply too fast for him to block effectively. “Without the points, I think Brandon and I would be here all night. You really can take a blow!” exclaimed Portentia, obviously giddy about winning. “If James doesn’t mind, I’d like to better demonstrate how training will help you,” said Ai. I didn’t argue. Instead, I just talked to Brandon about how well he was learning. He seemed glum after his loss. When Ai and Portentia squared off, the fight was much harder to follow. Both girls were extremely fast, and I couldn’t keep up with the number of ways Portentia was thrown to the ground, though I guessed that Ai won the match a while before Portentia was willing to give up.
“What are you? I’ve never seen anything but old vampires keep up with me.” commented Portentia as she stood up again. “You are quite swift, but there are plenty who are swifter. If you want to get the most out of lessons from James, you’ll have to do your best to hold back. Moving more quickly than your opponent is wonderful in an actual fight, but you will better utilize your time if you work toward honing your skills in these walls. I suggest for you to try mimicking the speed of your opponents much like you move more slowly when walking and talking.” explained Alma, signing as she talked. Groaning, Portentia said, “You wouldn’t believe how hard that is.” Alma appeared behind Portentia, tapping her shoulder, and Portentia fell backward as she whipped around. “Wouldn’t I?” asked Alma. Staring up, Portentia asked “Really. What are you?” Alma calmly replied “Perhaps if we become friends one day, I might explain. Until then, you have a great deal to learn.” I wondered if I should consider that question more. There were many things I didn’t really understand still. Here and now, I was thankful that the twins and Alma were more capable at conveying the usefulness of martial training in ways I simply couldn’t. There was no way I could keep up with Portentia’s speed, which might have made my training seem useless to her without the assistance.
Emma volunteered to go over the basics with Portentia, leaving me free to work with Brandon and Brenna. I was worried that Alma’s cool gaze would be on me the entire time. Luckily, Jarod asked the twins to spar with him, explaining that Aaliyah said he was far enough along now to safely spar with them if they played nice. Unfortunately, I became a little distracted watching him fight. I ended up watching him as much as I was instructing the siblings. I had years of experience on Jarod with martial arts, but I wasn’t certain that I could beat him in a fight now, assuming I’d even live through it. None of the moves he used seemed remotely safe. Whenever he would land a blow, which was surprisingly often, he was hitting a pressure point or moving as if to break bone. His ability to anticipate attacks was absolutely incredible to me. Alma’s gaze never seemed to leave him as he fought, and I wondered at what was passing through her mind, almost longing to catch her eyes flicker over to me again. I wasn’t ready when Brandon and Brenna jumped me together, knocking me down. I smiled and flipped backward onto my feet before fighting them both and commenting on their mistakes as I scored point after point. Together they were giving me a pleasant workout by the end. My students really were improving.