In Another World With Just Monika Chapter 98
"Only two things come out of Refreese, you know?" Mynah said to Elze as they approached the center of the ring. A perfect circle abount twenty meters wide was burned into the grass of the little forest clearing. Ring-outs were a perfectly valid way of ending the fight but compared to a magic duel melee fighters had plenty of room to roam. "Fish and bandits."
"What are you trying to say?" Elze asked with narrowed eyes.
That was technically true. Fish was Refreese's primary export. But as an economically depressed country, many people would rather cross the border and find work in Belfast. Adventurers were dependent upon the Guild providing them listings and it was on a first-come-first-served basis.
Bandits, however, could pick their own targets. The walls surrounding settlements were as much to keep out monsters as they were to protect against other humans.
"I'm saying there's nothing wrong with being fish. It's good to be all young and healthy and flopping around with fresh eyes," Mynah replied. The tall well-muscled woman put a hand to her chin and nodded approvingly. "You have good eyes."
Elze just looked so confused.
Mynah raised her other hand and began cracking her knuckles. The pops seemed to echo through the clearing. "You're not even afraid, are you? Your eyes don't show the arrogance of some young fish who thinks they're the best, but you don't care at all that you're going to hurt and lose. Just living means to endure pain. I respect that. So fresh. So fresh."
"Okay, that's just offensive. I'm from Refreese, that's true. But we're from near the border. That means INLAND. Our family raised *goats* and *chickens*. I have no idea what the heck you're talking about."
("Dammit Elze, you should have told me that earlier! Mah Vertical Integration-!") (1)
Elze turned her head to the side and spat "SHUT UP ABOUT THAT, PLAYA!"
Mynah laughed. "So are you ready to see just how strong you are?" She spread her beefy arms out wide. The tips of her fingers wiggled ominously. "Ready to try and climb the mountain?"
("This is an unfair fight. And I don't mean the difference between Green Rank and Red Rank. But before one can take advantage of strength, one must have reach. Dayum someone has reach in spades.")
("That is why you should have asked for something in the unlikely chance that your women win, fool! But now that chance is gone. You lose and lose, you loser!")
("She's almost like if Michael Jordan was born as a woma hmm, what was that? You were saying something?")
Zanac's shrill voice shouted out, accompanied by a small bell "BEGIN!"
"[Boost!]" Elze stamped her left foot into the ground and shot forward, leaving a small crater behind her. But at the halfway point rather than striking with her punch she shifted into a low driving kick toward her opponent's knee.
"Hah!" Just before Elze's foot could reach, Mynah pivoted on her left heel and counter-kicked with her right leg at Elze's body.
"Kuh!" Elze was just barely able to shield herself with her arms as the other adventurer's powerful kick flung her away in the instant just before her own [Boosted] kick could shatter the other person's kneecaps.
She tumbled about in the air to shift her legs down again, making contact with the ground. Her fingers scratched a furrow into the ground as she desperately tried to bleed off momentum. Still she slid off for quite some distance, almost reaching the edge for a ring-out.
A simple but powerful kick. Instead of avoiding, counter-attack immediately! She looked up, now much more wary.
Mynah grinned. "That's a good look on your face. Destroy the enemy's footing, that's just good sense. But since I'm so much bigger than everyone else, of course everybody attacks my legs first of all!"
Elze grit her teeth. Such was the problem of reach. And because she was inside a formal dueling circle, she couldn't just rip trees off the ground and then get the advantage of range for herself.
Her hands drifted towards her pouch and then stopped. Throwing things would be cheating. If she was going to do that, then there's no point in being a front-liner. Power to crush anything before her. The strength to protect everyone she cared about! Being a stubborn girl that yields to nothing and no one! As one of twin girls, she thought that everything gentle and smart went into Linze and so Elze resolved that rather than be compared as the stupider less attractive sibling she might as well embrace that and be the rude crude woman that defend her sister's happiness.
She didn't have the twisty mind of Playa, or Yae's refined technique. All she could do was to rush out and break everything in front of her.
Elze raised her fists up in a boxer stance and stomped forward with quick mincing steps. Mynah grinned again, because Elze didn't realize just how much like a silly little duck she looked like that.
Mynah's right eyebrow quirked up, as her glance went down from Elze's powerfully pumping feet to her ready fists, only gently bobbing up and down in tiny circles even as the smaller girl suddenly picked up speed. Elze lunged to the side and aimed a punch towards Mynah's hips.
Mynah swung down with her left arm, a simple but potent motion. Elze's left foot drove into the ground, and her left hand punched up. There was a small shockwave and a deep ringing noise as her fist made contact with the large adventurer's own metal bracers. Though her fist looked tiny compared to that arm, it was the arm that bounced up.
Her left fist descended quickly, as if stealing the force of Mynah's own strike, circling it around her own hips, to add speed and power to her right hand punch.
"[Ramp.]" Mynah opened her left hand out and slapped down.
Elze was unprepared to receive that attack on her back. She was driven down into the ground with a small boom. Kicked-up dust obscured the view around Mynah's knees for a few moments.
Mynah stepped back, and an errant gust of wind showed that Elze was crouching down on her knees and elbows almost in a supplicating servile position. Her teeth were clenched in pain. Her shoulders shivered from the impact she couldn't fully absorb.
"That was clever," said the huge adventurer. "You were trying to cycle your [Boost] power between your feet and your fists, weren't you? Trying to [Boost] your [Boost], storing power in the tension in your fists." She imitated Elze's pose from earlier, and as she sharply dropped one fist the knee on the opposite side of her body lifted. It was like piston power. "That you could trade for speed in a pinch."
With shaking arms, Elze pushed herself up. She stood up slowly, and spread out her stance to support her weight as her arms hung loose. The pain would take a while to hit, like from torn muscles only swelling up and burning purple with pain for days only after stopping the heavy exercise. For the moment her arms felt cold and wobbly. She made a face that looked halfway between a smile and grimace.
"Wish I could say the same. T-that slap was just awful powerful" Elze replied.
"Nothing clever about it. Your [Boost] and my [Ramp] are among the common [Null] abilities that increase strength, you know? Odd to think that maybe you'd do better with my [Ramp] and if only I had your [Boost] instead. I'm already so much stronger and bigger, you can't ever push that ability to the most without pushing your own body into something that's hard and not easy to love anymore."
Elze frowned. Did Mylah have a complex about her huge, unladylike body? That sounded predictable. "S-shut up. You're just bragging about yourself!"
Mynah's expression firmed up. "No. I don't have anything like that to be proud of."
Elze glanced aside towards the table and the red-clothed young man there. "There are some weird people who like that sort of thing, I think. No offense, but it's not like you're ugly, you know? Being powerful has its perks too, right?"
Mylah smiled gently. "That's not what I'm talking about, little fishie." She stepped back a few more paces and beckoned. "Come on, you're not going to give up from a little tap like that, are you?"
("Do you recall how Mynah said that the only things of note to come out of Refreese are fish and bandits?")
("She was born a bandit's daughter. Bandit father, bandit mother. They preyed on the weak, they took slaves, they killed whoever they wanted and had no sympathy for anyone. Even from an early age they could see that Mylah was going to grow up big and strong, and even if she was a woman even scum like that were prepared to accept her as a leader.
("But at some point she betrayed them all to the Belfast guards. She led soldiers to their secret camp, and helped killed the people who were her own family to make an opening. No one was allowed to survive except for Mylah who then vanished away into the border.")
("Please tell me it wasn't for some clich reason like she fell in love with a man and tried to turn over a new leaf.")
("No one knows. She became an adventurer for a while, until she grew bored with even that. She decided to become a prize fighter in the underground arenas.
("In this world of ours, there are many truths. A bandit's truth is even similar to a noble's truth. People are not born equal, and that only power can decide who is right. Mylah refused to put herself under the power of anyone. She would only follow someone who was stronger than herself. Literally someone stronger. And with that body of hers
("Very very few were those who could compare. Oh, there were no end of stupid men who wanted to dominate such a woman but they were all swiftly crushed and demoralized. She had to fight off stupid plots of revenge for their bruised little egoes. And the few elite soldiers of the country who did have the power to do so...")
("I've met General Leon, the Bronze Fist, yes.")
("They had absolutely no idea these things were going on, being above such commoner pursuits as blood cage matches. So she remained there, unfulfilled, looking for a reason to exist, until I found her.")
("The obvious conclusion to this story is that you proved stronger enough to beat her down, and as a woman of principles was someone she could follow without any qualms.")
("Ugh. Perhaps we could use a little more qualm")
("Also that you admitted to enjoying commoner pursuits.")
("It is a leader's joy to cultivate talent wherever she finds them, don't judge me!")
"Stop trying to fight me and fight me!" Mynah yelled.
"I am!" Elze screeched back. She weaved down to avoid return punches and the tall adventurer now had to beware kicking because Elze was ready to receive them now with bone-shattering punches.
Mynah was big, but not bulky. She blocked hits with her metal arm bracers and shin guards. Elze just barely avoided big grappling hands that could end the fight immediately.
"You stupid, STUPID FISH!"
"You big dumb ASS!"
("Ugh. Dammit Elze. She's right. If you're not cheating, you're not trying.")
("I find her a lot more admirable than you for that reason. She would go far under my tutelage instead.")
("Against monsters, against other humans in war, there's no such thing as fairness! This was heavily weighed in her opponent's favor anyway, she should have started using ranged weapons to destroy the advantage of reach by now! She's more agile, thrown weapons can attack at odd angles!")
("Surely you don't think someone hasn't tried that against Mynah by now? No one is undefeated by being unable to deal with simple little tricks.")
"All right, fine! You want this? Have some of this!" Elze dipped into her pouch and brought out a handful of lead bullets. "[Boost!][Thow!]"
With a whip-crack, she threw the bullets at Mynah. Someone so big, it was not like she could miss. One. Two. Three lead bullets!
"[Ramp.]" Mynah opened her palm out, and in a smooth circular motion, caught each of the lead bullets and threw them back. One after the other, all in a straight line, like she was juggling one-handed.
Elze's eyes widened. She only had enough time to [Boost] her hand again and shield herself against lead bullets arriving at the same speed she had thrown them. Whack. Whack. Whack. The bullets slapped loudly against her open palm. Unfortunately, though she managed to intercept the bullets safely, she put rigidity on her wrist and not her elbow.
Elze ended up punching herself. She slammed back down into the ground.
"Little fish? Are you still alive?"
"Mrrrghl furgle. That's why I didn't want to try that in the first place, you jerkface" Elze moaned.
Mynah made a humming grunt. "Your [Boost] all so suddenly increases the power and force and durability of your blows. My [Ramp] is different. It's slower."
"It takes the power of the enemy's hits and uses it against them, isn't it?" Elze breathed. "That's why it's called [RAMP]." An inclined plane. "The harder someone hits you, the harder you can return the hit. You get tougher and stronger the more you're fighting and taking hits."
"I can also [Ramp Up] by myself to store power and release it all at once. That's why I liked the thing you did with the rabbit punches earlier. It's like you were using your [Boost] to act like my [Ramp]. You're going to go far, little fish, as long as you don't let anyone break your spirit. Be proud of that."
"Proud nothing!" Elze spat. "I'm not done yet! You think I can't win! I'm gonna win!"
("Oh, the stubbornness of youth. It is at least more respectable to seek victory until death than the cowardice of the reasonable person. But it seems Mynah will have to beat some humility into her after all.")
("No. If I didn't have confidence that Elze could beat anything in front of her, I wouldn't have allowed this. Elze might not have as much of a tragic background as your adventurer, but whoever said that only suffering can fuel power? Sometimes the only lesson that pain teaches is that you are made to suffer for no reason. Elze is young, but she is no stranger to loss. She has lost against people that are stronger, that are faster, that can cheat harder but she has also won against them by always adapting, by not searching for that one perfect way to use her [Null] ability.")
("Power versus technique, do you mean? But there always comes a point when no amount of technique can defeat power. A little dog can't beat a bear.")
Elze flipped back up to her feet. She took a deep breath and began to waggle her arms about, and twisted her hips from side to side, loosening her muscle. This battle looked unfair, but Mynah was respectful enough not to attack while Elze was doing that. It would have been fair to attack when your enemy is silly enough to stand there making herself vulnerable.
But this was a duel, after all. The best victory in the duel is to make it look effortless and concede every advantage to your opponent.
Elze opened her eyes. Because of the way [Ramp] works, that's why Mynah allowed herself to be hit. She blocked rather than avoided. Elze looked down at her own fist. She exhaled and opened her hand out into a palm.
She spread out her footing into a modified bowlegged horse stance. She straightened out her arms but with palms facing inwards.
("Playa-dono isn't that?!")
(" Earth Style Bending. Based on Hung Ga southern martial arts. This one also known as the Tiger and Crane Paired Form Fist.")
("Fools. Technique can't beat power!")
Apologies for the gap in updates. My mother and little brother have been in a road accident. The van they were riding in was hit by a truck.
They have fractured hips and legs and can't walk anymore. Still better than being dead, I suppose. It's a minor miracle that no one died from the crash.
Suddenly the joke about 'going isekai' from dying by being hit by a truck in the first chapter doesn't sound all that funny to me now.
I will be too busy to mind regular updates to this story for a while.