Play the song while reading! Comment about what you thought in the comments below the chapter!
The doctor I see is a kobold after several elf and orc doctors tell me to go to a veterinarian instead. Doctor Wainsbury is the cutest little kobold guy ever, even though his voice is gravelly. He declares I am in excellent health and recommends a special shampoo to help me with not getting fleas in dungeons. I didn’t need to go to the vet at all.
I have received the clothes that tailor made. They’re very nice, and the robes in particular give me better magical bonuses. I can even activate a mirror image effect a few times a day with it, and the robe feels good to wear. No pinching or chafing at all.
My bookshelf is getting filled. I like to read in the evening while Podlihob watches sports and Rhynn cooks dinner. I am reading books about the history of this nation and about how rune magic works. Sometimes I help Rhynn with the meal preparation, and Podlihob and I usually tag-team the dishes after we eat; he washes, and I dry. Now that we’ve settled into our routine, we don’t drink much booze.
“No athlete has time for alcohol-induced dehydration.” Podlihob says he learned acrobatics and gymnastics as a kid to honor his biological parents, who were performers in a circus. His adopted parent, the elf hunter, trained him in those fields in the forests far to the northwest from here. His mask was his father’s performing mask and is a valuable memento, which is why he is always has it on.
We do smoke a lot of those earthy cigarettes, though. I was informed that they are healing herb; the green herb helps with pain and discomfort, while the red also induces a mild euphoria. I enjoy euphoria in my life. We smoke the green herb through the day and enjoy a red herb cigarette at night after dinner, which Podlihob and Rhynn call any number of names. I can’t remember all the different names and just call it a cigarette, which they joke about all the time.
Rhynn and Podlihob have set me up with an old computer in my bedroom and have had me recording short videos to see if anyone in the spirit world knows who I am. Since I can’t go there yet, they figure the videos are the next best thing to research with the spirits. Some of the videos are me talking about a lot of nothing, or sometimes I try to explain something I can remember and understand, like math. Podlihob has me play a lot of old games that he says will help me understand how the shard is set up, and some other games he thinks I will find fun.
I’ve learned so many dimensional spells during this stretch I can’t believe it. I actually learned some teleport attack spells, such as Razor Hole, which combines the basic dimension door spell with a razor edge. I can close it around whatever I want and slice through it as though it was not there. When I tried it out in the dungeon on a giant, there was a flood of blood when I removed its top half from its bottom half. After that, I learned a spell called Spatial Blade. I can fracture space in a small area, and it causes instant death to everything I’ve tried it on so far. Now I am learning spells that manipulate time. Rhynn thinks once I have learned most of the time spells, I will be eligible to learn spells about traveling to the spirit world.
We’ve been living together for a month and I have completed my last big immigration meeting for a while, and Rhynn announces that we have our first arena match scheduled. Since we’re a new team, this will be a qualifying match. We can keep doing qualifying matches either until we lose or until the next tournament starts, the more qualifying matches we win, the higher our seed in the tournament will be.
Our draw on the first qualifying match is a trio of reincarnator players. They grew up as childhood friends and have a similar party composition to our own. One uses a large shield and a small sword, one is an archer, and the last is a mage. I’m a little nervous about the match, until the day of it finally rolls around.
“Our opponents withdrew.” Rhynn grins while he says this.
“They did what?” Podlihob scowls.
“They withdrew when they found out they would be facing me. We get a win. I already signed us up for the next available qualifying match.” Rhynn’s a badass!
“Hopefully someone will fight us. I can’t get prestige if I don’t fight anybody. They’re withdrawing because of you and not me, after all.” Oh yeah, Podlihob had some reason to fight in the arena, I had forgotten about that. I won’t mention it since it might offend him I forgot.
“No worries, I talked to Alba and he assured me our next opponents wouldn’t withdraw. He’s going to set that match up himself. He’s probably more upset than anyone else about this, he’s been itching to study my combat style. I am tempted to let Zav handle the opposing team by himself. With those wands he’s damn near untouchable.” I have my poison wand and a wand with electricity. I can extend wires from each and have gotten good at making the wire invisible. We’re calling them Mutable Wands and Rhynn’s sure people will be itching to copycat it once I display it. In the dungeons, it looks like I just hold up my wands and then enemies fall into pieces. I’m still not good at preventing the wire from damaging the surroundings, though. Rhynn says I still have a long way to go to master this weapon.
“That still won’t garner me any achievements to show off to the shogun. I should be the one to do that.”
Podlihob needs the recognition of a shogun? Sounds serious.
They get into a deep conversation about how Podlihob could take the spotlight, since Rhynn didn’t want to reveal his cards too early. I didn’t understand a lot of what they were saying, so I went back to studying my history book for the next patriotization exam.
The next morning while we are eating breakfast, Rhynn’s pocket chirps.
“I got a text from Alba. He got us another opponent for tonight. He pulled some strings, since we should only be fighting people who have won a qualifying match already, but since we didn’t actually fight, he argued we ‘did not fight in a match’ even though our record is one and oh.” Rhynn’s eggs have a lot of hot sauce on them. He makes the hot sauce himself, and while the flavor is nice, the heat is too much for me. I do a mild hot sauce and soy sauce on my eggs. Podlihob, the heretic, does salt and pepper. We forgive him his blasphemy because he uses black, red, and white pepper instead of black only.
“Awesome! Who are we fighting?” Podlihob has his eggs and bacon in his toast, folded over to make a little breakfast sandwich. Very classy. I approve.
“Elite golem pilots. Two of them are the standard golem setup with the rifle and bayonet, the third is a new drone swarm golem. I am pretty sure you can handle them, Pod. Just make sure you take out that drone swarm first and the other two will go down from your turrets.” Rhynn fried his eggs inside his toast and uses the cut-out pieces of toast to soak up the mixture of soy and hot sauces with yolk. I rate this fairly high on ways to do breakfast.
“I learned a haste spell. I can cast that on you at the beginning of the match and use some gravity magic on the golems without anybody noticing.” I just eat the eggs and then sop up everything with my toast because I am exceedingly uncivilized. Like an animal! I usually have to wash the yolk out of my fur after we have fried eggs for breakfast, but I still really enjoy them.
Our match is scheduled for a prime-time broadcast, so we take the day easy, and eat out for lunch. We go to the arena early and there are sports journalists who want to interview us. Really? Actually, they just want to interview Rhynn. He really is famous, I guess. He tells them ‘No comment’ and ‘Watch our matches’ a lot. One intrepid reporter asks him if he is now a monster tamer, whereupon Rhynn pokes me to say something, and I figure the guy is being rude, so I say ‘That’s racist!’. The reporters are taken aback, and Rhynn whisks us to our locker room, laughing all the way.
“That response was beautiful,” Rhynn tells me. Even Podlihob is chuckling. I was just telling the truth, I think.
“He’s just one of the many talking heads you guys hate. I figured I would drop a truth-bomb on him and give everybody some sound-bites.”
Podlihob especially hates sports journalists, and Rhynn enjoys making fun of them whenever Podlihob bitches about them.
Podlihob equips his combat gear, while Rhynn and I wear our street clothes. We’re going to let everyone know we are not taking this match seriously. Golem drones against players? The swarm is a little scary, but the other two drones are potato-tier garbage. That’s what Rhynn said this morning, anyway. Rhynn gives Podlihob a light massage while we wait for the signal to enter the arena.
Finally, a light flashes red above the door. Time to go in!
Podlihob enters first, holding up his crossbow and spear. He walks through smoke and spotlights spinning wildly around his entrance. Rhynn and I saunter in behind him a few moments later. Rhynn lights a cigarette.
Our opponents are already there. A large monitor on one side of the arena counts us down to the start of the match. As it changes to zero, I cast my haste spell at Podlihob, who vanishes. Moments later, the golems all explode, including the swarm. The only indication of an attack is the sudden existence of a couple of turrets, and then an explosion. Podlihob is posing again with his spear and crossbow, and we enjoy the accolades of our win. Nobody is really cheering though since no one saw us do anything. Eventually we get a decent round of applause, and we exit the arena.
While Podlihob is changing his gear, Alba shows up.
“Rhynn, you didn’t fight! Everybody was looking forward to the Muscle Wizard! What happened?”
Rhynn grins at him.
“I got no time for small-fry chumps like those golems. My boy Podlihob barely had time for them. Zavyyn might have farted during the match, that’s probably the closest he could come to giving a shit.”
Oh, I see what he did there. That’s witty.
“You want to see me fight? Give us some tougher opponents.”
Alba puts a hand on his forehead.
“We try to match stronger teams with weaker teams in the qualifiers to make sure the tournament is up to our standards. I can’t have you knocking out the best teams in the qualifiers or our advertisers will be leaving in droves. Remember, the more exciting the match, the better a purse we can offer you.” Alba is pleading at this point.
“Money isn’t an issue for us. You’re on your own dealing with the advertisers. If you can’t figure out how to spin us not taking things seriously now into better ad revenue during the tournament, you aren’t half the negotiator I thought you were.” Rhynn finishes the cigarette he lit in the arena.
“You’re really putting me on the spot here. I have advertisers saying they need something exciting to get people to stay in their seats. Can you meet me halfway, and at least have everybody on your team perform an attack each match? As long as we have something, anything we can include in a highlight reel instead of a blur our cameras couldn’t follow, they’ll be happy.”
“No promises for these qualifiers. For the actual tournament, I’ll think about it. The qualifiers get garbage advertising anyway. We’re on, what, Sports Network Three? Combat Channel Twelve? I don’t think I’m that worried about channels running infomercials for half their programming. They don’t give a shit about match quality.”
“Can you please just fight to help an old friend out? I really need some leverage to negotiate better advertising for these qualifiers, you’d really be helping me out.” This Alba guy just won’t budge! The art of negotiation is the art of being a whining jackass.
“We’ve got to go Alba. Have a good evening. Text me when our next qualifier is set up.” Rhynn pushes past Alba and we leave.