1.12 R

When Garia arrived in Esthelm just before midday, she saw the commotion outside the Adventurer’s Guild before she’d even dropped off her delivery.

Sugar. Several bags of it – enough for a huge rush order in one of the bakeries in town. The heavy, sticky delivery had messed up the inside Garia’s pack. She’d have to spend quite some time cleaning it out with water and a ball of soap.

The thought was depressing to the girl, but she put that out of her mind the instant she saw Ryoka. As always, the other girl was at the center of some kind of attention. In this case, she was surrounded by a crowd of adventurers in the open courtyard used for training and sparring in the Adventurer’s Guild.

She wasn’t sparring or using a weapon. Yet. But Garia could see as plain as her own level that Ryoka was about to fight. The other girl had a—certain expression that crossed her face in times like these.

Externally, she did seem like normal Ryoka. That was to say, her impassive face which gave nothing away and her distant, reserved eyes which had fascinated Garia the first day she’d met the other girl.

But in times like these, though the mask would not break, Garia could see another Ryoka peering out from behind. And her eyes – yes, you had to look there. Ryoka’s eyes held a faint, fierce light.

It made Garia hesitate, but she was even kinder than she was curious. That instinct prompted her to gently push her way through the crowd of adventurers to stop Ryoka from picking a fight with someone dangerous.




Ryoka was stretching her legs out, touching her toes when she saw someone lift up a guy in leather armor and shift him out of the way. Garia, red-faced and blushing, apologized and edged into the open space and towards Ryoka.

Huh. But Ryoka had suggested Garia come to the city, hadn’t she? It was just…odd. Her conversation with Garia felt like it had happened a long time ago. But she’d been awake then and hadn’t slept since.

Tired. Which wasn’t good. Ryoka had to be at the top of her game for what was coming next.

Ryoka nodded as Garia cautiously walked closer. She would have smiled—or at least thought about smiling—but she didn’t feel like it. She needed to concentrate.


“Um, hi, Ryoka. What’s up?”

“Nothing much. See that person? The one in the silver armor? She challenged me to a fight.”

Ryoka nodded across the courtyard, to where Yvlon was talking to Ceria, Calruz, and several other members of the Horns of Hammerad. Garia eyed her once, gulped, and then bent down to whisper to Ryoka.

“Ryoka? Did you do something to make her—um, mad?

Ryoka bared her teeth. It might have been a smile.

“I don’t think so. Not yet, anyways. She challenged me to a ‘friendly’ match. I accepted. Why?”

“Oh. Nothing. It’s just—that’s Yvlon Byres, Captain of the Silver Spears. She’s famous around here.”

“So I’m told.”

“And she challenged you. To a fight?”

“Well, a sparring match. I was the one who wanted to turn it into a fight.”


Ryoka hesitated. She eyed Yvlon across the open space between them. The other young woman—she was closer to Ryoka’s age, possibly a year or two older—was smiling and addressing a worried-looking Ceria. She turned, met Ryoka’s eyes, and nodded politely.

The barefoot girl looked away. She began stretching her other leg and muttered to Garia.

“I—just want to push her face in a bit, don’t you? She’s a bit too beautiful and perfect.”

Garia waited, but Ryoka just stood back up and began touching her toes, breathing slowly and steadily.

“That’s it?”


“Ryoka, that’s—I know Yvlon. Her group, the Silver Spears helped chase off a group of bandits that was attacking me once. And I’ve heard of her. She’s a really good person! She’s nice, she gives to the poor, her team takes on requests to help people even if the reward isn’t high—”

“I get it. She’s a great person. A popular girl. A someone everyone likes.”

The expression on Ryoka’s face said that she didn’t share the same opinion. Her eyes were flinty as they flicked towards Yvlon.

“You don’t think she’s like that?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. She just—reminds me of people I don’t like. And she looks too nice for an adventurer. I don’t like nice people.”

“That doesn’t make any sense, Ryoka.”

“I guess. Shame.”

Ryoka finished stretching out her hamstrings and stood straight, sighing. Her conversation with Garia was—distracting. She didn’t really have a good explanation for Garia, not one she could articulate. It was just how she felt. More than anything, Ryoka had been happy to fight Yvlon.

The other adventurer noticed she was staring and smiled again. Ryoka scowled. That smile. That polite little smile. She wanted to wipe it off Yvlon’s face.

“She looks way too attractive, that’s all.”

Garia shook her head. She seemed to wrestle with herself and then burst out.

“You both look like—like princesses!”

Ryoka blinked at the other Runner. Garia stared back, embarrassed.

“You do. You both look—way better than I do. Or Persua. Or anyone, really. I don’t see why you want to fight her.”

“She wants to test me, too. She’s working for Magnolia.”

“She’s related to Lady Magnolia, Ryoka.”


“You know she once took on five men and won, right? She did it barehanded.”

“With armor, though, right? Not exactly barehanded.”

Garia was close to tearing out her hair. She clutched at her head and regretted it as her sugar-encrusted palms mixed with her sweat.

“It was still five people, Ryoka! Most adventurers couldn’t do that with a weapon!”

Ryoka knew that was true. She knew it was…probably…impressive, but even in her own head she didn’t want to give the thought too much credence. Garia was still talking. Ryoka debated tuning her out and reluctantly listened.

“I know she won’t hurt you—not if you don’t try to hurt her. But Silver-rank adventurers aren’t like that guy you fought in the tavern, Ryoka. If you make her get serious she’ll—what are you doing?”

“Warming up.”

The barefoot girl wasn’t done with her pre-fight stretching. From stretching her legs, she’d moved onto her arms. And while the adventurers had watched her touch her toes and stretch her legs with interest, the next phase of her warm up was…different.

Ryoka shook her arms out in a fanning motion. It looked ridiculous, she knew. Sort of like a kid pretending to be a chicken. But it was a necessary stretch if she wanted to throw hooks when she was fighting. She began to circle her arms around, first in one direction, and then the other.

Adventurers were laughing. Ryoka ignored them. She raised her arm and grabbed the elbow, gently pushing it down her back. Then she repeated it with her other arm.

All in all the stretches took five minutes. Ryoka did everything from touching her toes to stretching out her legs to rotating her hips as if she was using a hula-hoop in slow motion.

When it was done, Ryoka could feel every part of her body was ready to go. She also had an audience. Besides the adventurers already watching her and Yvlon, a group of enterprising street vendors had joined the crowd along with a sizable group of pedestrians. They were already betting as they stood in the circle, chatting, eating food, and laughing at Ryoka’s antics.

Yvlon smiled as Ryoka walked into the center of the ring. She nodded to Ceria and took a few steps towards Ryoka.

“Interesting. You’re quite limber. Was that supposed to help you fight?”

“You don’t stretch before a fight?”

The other adventurers laughed or chuckled. Yvlon shook her head and replied drily.

“Not like that. I don’t think any warriors I know would do that – especially not in front of an audience.”

“Shame. One more advantage for me, then.”

It was amazing, Garia reflected as she watched Ryoka, that the other girl was completely—and always, come to think of it—confident. Even when she was facing down an adventurer in armor.

“Pardon me. I was just reassuring your friends that this friendly exhibition would not be harmful to you. If you’ll allow me a minute, I’ll remove my armor.”

So saying Yvlon began removing her gauntlets, but Ryoka shook her head.

“You can leave your armor on. The gauntlets too.”

The crowd had been talking and joking as they waited for the sparring match to begin, but Ryoka’s words created a hush as if someone had cast a [Silence] spell. Yvlon raised her eyebrows and behind her, Ceria slapped her forehead.

“I wouldn’t want to hurt you.”

“It won’t be me that gets hurt.”

“Ryoka, don’t be an idiot!”

Ceria walked forwards and snapped at the barefoot runner. She lowered her voice so not everyone could hear her, but in the silence her words were perfectly audible to those around her.

“Are you insane? You can’t fight someone in armor! Yvlon is a Silver-rank captain. Even if she pulls her punches she’ll hurt you. This is just a sparring match—neither of you are supposed to get hurt.”

“Really? Then let’s make it a serious fight.”

Ceria groaned as Calruz grinned in approval. The Minotaur watched Ryoka approvingly, liking her bravado. Ceria did not. She hissed at Ryoka so only the Runner could hear.

“Yvlon is not someone to take lightly, Ryoka. She’s honorable, proud—even if she is being patient. Stop being so rude.”

“I’m taking her seriously, believe me. But I want to see what fighting someone in armor is like. And besides…you’ve never seen me fight, have you?”

Ceria blinked at Ryoka. She eyed her from top to toe.


“Trust me.”

“If Miss Ryoka Griffin says she’s confident, I will trust her word, Ceria.”

Yvlon smiled at the Half-elf, meeting Ceria’s worried stare. An unspoken message passed between the two and Ceria’s pointed ears lowed slightly before she stepped back.

Now Ryoka and Yvlon were alone in the center of the ring. Ryoka bounced on the balls of her feet, eying Yvlon as the other woman divested herself of her belt pouches and sword.

“I am afraid Ceria is right though, Ryoka. I would hate for you to break your hands on my armor or for me to cut your face with my gauntlets. I am sure I would be able to give you a fair fight even without my armor.”

“It’s fine. You’re not wearing a helmet anyways.”

Again, Ryoka’s words caused a stir in the crowd, and not an entirely positive one. From her position, Garia could see some of the other adventurers – especially the armored women who were part of the Silver Spears – looking annoyed or outright angry at Ryoka’s words.

But Yvlon only smiled politely. It was a smile quite similar to Lady Magnolia’s, actually. A [Lady]’s smile that gave nothing away.

“Very well. I am told you practice some sort of unarmed fighting? You said it was…MMA? I confess that I have only a bit of formal training myself. Much of what I know is self-taught.”

“Yeah. I practice Mixed Martial Arts. Muay Thai.”

“And you are a skilled practitioner of this…Muay Thai?”

“Where I come from, yeah.”

“Interesting. Then shall we begin? I believe it would be only courteous to allow you the first strike.”

Yvlon walked forwards a few steps, and then raised her gauntleted arms in something close to a boxer’s guard. The murmuring of the crowd increased as Ryoka began circling the other woman, hands up.

Her posture was different than it would be in a Muay Thai sparring match. Ryoka was treating this like an MMA fight, although she’d never been in one herself. But she’d practiced on the off-chance her parents would allow her to fight in the ring.

Her posture and center of balance were lowered, her stance was wider and her hands were loosely clasped into fists. She rested more weight on her front leg as she eyed Yvlon.

Now that she was finally in front of the other woman Ryoka found time for a shred of regret that she was fighting the other woman in armor. It was complete idiocy to fight anyone in armor barehanded. She knew that.

But part of Ryoka wanted this. She wanted the challenge; she wanted to see how far she could push herself against unfair odds like this. And most of all, she wanted to win even with Yvlon in full plate armor. She wanted it quite badly, in fact.

The other woman slowly rotated to follow Ryoka as the barefoot girl circled her. She was waiting for Ryoka’s first move, as she’d said.

Well, that was fine with her. Ryoka feinted with her hands. Yvlon’s instinctively moved to block. Ryoka put all her weight onto her front leg and spun, throwing her back leg up and back towards the side of Yvlon’s head in what was known as a spinning wheel kick.

Ryoka’s leg flashed upwards and Yvlon barely raised her arms in time to protect her head. Despite the armor she wore, she still staggered back from the impact.

That was the moment Ryoka had really been waiting for. Even before she was fully back upright she moved sideways and threw a punch at Yvlon’s head.

Her hands were impossibly quick. Garia couldn’t even see Ryoka as the girl threw a lightning-fast jab at the adventurer’s face.

Ryoka’s right hand flew forwards in a strike that would have caught Yvlon straight on the tip of her chin. But before it landed one silver-plated hand came up and seized Ryoka’s hand.

From her position Garia saw the barefoot girl’s eyes widen, and then she twisted both body and head to avoid Yvlon’s fist. She couldn’t get away perfectly, held as she was by the other adventurer. The gauntlet caught Ryoka on the side of the jaw and drew blood.

The adventurers in the crowd cheered as Yvlon released Ryoka’s hand. That was probably a wise move regardless, because the look in the other girl’s eyes was pure fury. Ryoka muttered an expletive around her bleeding mouth and spat.

Yvlon gave Ryoka a polite smile as she raised her fists again. The light glinted off the polished metal and specks of blood on her right gauntlet.

“I understand your pride Ryoka Griffin, but we adventurers have our own dignity. You underestimate us at your peril. Are you sure you wouldn’t like me to remove my armor?”

That was the wrong thing to say. Ceria shouted something at Ryoka, but Garia saw the look in the Runner’s eyes. Slowly, she straightened, wiping the rest of the blood away from her cut lips.

“I’m going to get serious now.”

Yvlon seemed to sigh, but in an instant her guard was back up and she was watching Ryoka warily. She didn’t underestimate the other girl despite having scored a point first.

Ryoka paused for a moment, staring hard at Yvlon. Then she advanced slowly, raising her hands above her head.

The adventurers in Esthelm were nothing if not admiring of someone with spirit. Half of them egged Ryoka on, laughing and cheering as she advanced on Yvlon while the other half bet whether she’d even manage to strike the other woman’s face.

Yvlon’s eyes narrowed as Ryoka got closer and closer. Before the other girl could move, she stepped forwards and threw a lightning-quick punch at Ryoka’s head.

Ryoka didn’t dodge so much as lean on one leg and move her head down. The metal fist missed her head by inches, prompting a gasp from her audience. But neither woman was finished.

Even as Ryoka dodged her first punch, Yvlon’s second hand flew up in an uppercut towards Ryoka’s face. But again, Ryoka took a step back and avoided the blow with mere inches to spare. Then she threw a backhand at Yvlon’s face.

Again, the adventurer blocked but this time Ryoka wasn’t interested in kicking. She darted behind Yvlon as the adventurer turned in her heavier armor. Ryoka hooked her leg behind Yvlon’s and kicked straight through, sending the armored adventurer tumbling to the ground.

The crash of metal was the only sound in the silence. Yvlon rolled and got to her feet in an instant, ready for an attack but Ryoka just stood with her guard up, waiting.


Was it a rueful smile? It flicked across Yvlon’s face in an instant before she went all-out on the attack. She rushed at Ryoka, throwing swift punches that made the other girl dodge back.

It still wasn’t an equal fight. Even Garia could see that Ryoka was mostly on the defensive, unable to hit Yvlon while the other adventurer guarded her face. It wasn’t an equal fight.

But it was silent. Now all the adventurers were watching Ryoka like hawks. She dodged back, letting Yvlon come at her, always moving, darting in for strikes against Yvlon’s head before escaping.

Ryoka missed the timing for one of her strikes and Yvlon caught her in a flurry of blows. Ryoka took a punch to the midsection and a glancing blow off one shoulder—and then kicked Yvlon in the stomach hard enough to send the adventurer staggering back.

Again, Ryoka charged Yvlon. She avoided a wild punch, and then had the other woman’s back. She stepped behind Yvlon with one leg, and using her elbow threw the woman back over her knee. Again, the crash of metal was the only sound in the silence.

This time Ryoka didn’t let Yvlon get up. She advanced on the adventurer as she struggled to get off the ground. Yvlon turned and lashed out with her fist, almost too fast for Garia to follow. But Ryoka had been expecting that. She leaned back and then seized the other woman’s arm.

Garia saw Yvlon strike upwards at Ryoka, a flash of movement as the other girl twisted around her—for a second all was confusion, and then Ryoka was twisting Yvlon’s arm up while she planted her knee on her back.

It was over. Ryoka was holding the arm as high as the armor would allow. She was about to transition into a choke hold when she saw Yvlon’s hand push against the ground—

Ryoka was thrown off by the explosive force as Yvlon threw herself back, knocking the other girl off her. She turned and kicked, and Ryoka tumbled with the force of the blow.

Yvlon was trying to rotate her arm and work out the pain when she saw Ryoka roll and tumble upright in a flash of motion. She blinked—and caught a fist to her face for the first time. Ryoka’s hand knocked her head back slightly. As Yvlon was stunned, two more lightning-fast jabs hit her on the cheek and jaw.

The third punch Yvlon caught in a grip like steel. Ryoka braced herself, but no metal fist came swinging her way.

The Captain of the Silver Spears was shaking her head, and her mouth was moving. Over the roar of blood in Ryoka’s ears she realized people were shouting, and the adventurer released her hand and relaxed her stance as she massaged her mouth.

The fight was over.




“What was that?

That was the first question Garia asked Ryoka once she had a chance. This was mainly because everyone else was queuing up for food in the Guild’s mess hall.

Ryoka shrugged and pushed at her food with a sour face. It wasn’t that she wasn’t hungry—she was ravenous—but she was already tired of answering questions.

Reluctantly, she bit into a bit of juicy sausage and replied to the awestruck girl sitting across from her.

“Those were throws. Special moves to take down an opponent. Haven’t you ever seen someone tossing an opponent to the ground before?”

“Well, yeah, of course, but…”

Garia floundered as she searched for words.

“You made it look so easy. Yvlon was in armor and you just threw her to the ground—twice!”

“It would have been better if I’d kept her down.”

Ryoka grunted as she chomped hard on her food. At least she was able to savor it. A healing potion had taken care of all her injuries—and Yvlon’s.

Garia stared at her incredulously.

“You knocked down a Silver-rank Captain. Anyone would be proud of that.”

Ryoka smiled.

“Yeah. And I got to hit her.”

“Those last two punches were unnecessary.”

Ceria’s voice made the two Runners look up. The Half-elf slid onto the long table and frowned at Ryoka.

“You didn’t need to hit her that many times. This was supposed to be a gentle spar, not you trying to break her jaw.”

Ryoka looked completely unapologetic.


Ceria made a noise that sounded like a sigh crossed with a hiss and muttered a word neither Garia nor Ryoka knew. They understood the meaning perfectly, though.

Taking a seat across from Ryoka, Ceria stabbed at her food. Thus far she and Garia were the only two people to have joined Ryoka in the mess hall, despite the numerous adventurers sitting around them.

Predictably, Ryoka had chosen the far corner of the furthest table from the door, which meant that there would be far fewer people able to talk to her. But it seemed as though quite a few adventurers would have liked to come up and chat; only a few did.

These were the members of the Horns of Hammerad and the various Silver-rank captains Ryoka had met. Two of them, the man with the longbow named Cervial and Yvlon took seats next to Ryoka.

Maybe it wasn’t intentional, but Cervial took the seat directly next to Ryoka, putting himself between the two women. It wasn’t as if either woman was overtly hostile to the other—and indeed, they were quite polite.

But if Yvlon was polite and genuinely admiring of Ryoka after the fight, there was a certain edge in Ryoka’s replies and comments that didn’t pass unnoticed at the table.

Yvlon politely munched on a boiled piece of asparagus or asparagus-like vegetable and commented to the table at large but Ryoka and Garia in general.

“You see, it’s not as if we’re hurting for money or jobs at the moment. There’s always work and we can brave the Ruins of Albez for quite a profit most of the time. But it’s not sustainable in the long run.”

Cervial nodded. He stabbed at his food and made a face.

“Adventuring isn’t easy at our level. We’re just good enough that it’s not worth our time to take requests clearing out Goblin tribes unless they’re really big – but we don’t have the strength to take on the stronger types of monsters. Sooner or later our luck runs out and we take an injury we can’t heal up from – or die. That’s why these new ruins might be our break. If we can get in there and find some serious magical artifacts or equipment we could easily reach Gold-rank.”

“The only question is whether the risks in this case are worth the reward. So far Cervial’s team – the Flawless Flights, mine, and Calruz’s are the only ones who are willing to go in first.”

“It took some doing, but Ceria convinced me that the ruins could be loaded with ancient artifacts. They’re quite similar to ancient crypts, apparently.”

Cervial drained his mug and nodded politely at the Half-elf across the table.

“Still, we’re going in carefully. Both Yvlon and I are only doing this for the treasure.”

Ryoka shifted. She looked across the room at where adventurers were still being served. Perhaps it was because of his size, but Calruz had been stuck at the back of the line and he was grumpy about waiting. He kept casting glances at the now-full table Ryoka was sitting at, irritated.

“What about Calruz, then?”

Yvlon chuckled politely and Cervial shook his head.

“He just wants the challenge. That stupid Minotaur doesn’t care what enemies he’s fighting so long as he can gain experience from it. He’s a Levelist; one of the old-fashioned kind. Not like the rest of us.”

Ryoka nodded. She thought she understood from context alone. If Yvlon and Cervial were adventurers who relied upon magical equipment along with their levels to get stronger, Calruz was the kind of person who thought gaining more levels was all that he needed. She looked at Cervial.

“What’s the level difference between a Silver-ranked adventurer and a Gold-rank?”

“The difference? Well—it could be just a few levels depending on their equipment. Remember, in most cases it’s the entire party who gets the Gold-rank. I guess Silver-rank is mostly in the low twenties at best while Gold-rank is anywhere from Level 24 onwards.”

“Of course, individual skill still plays a pretty big role.”

Yvlon nodded at Calruz as the Minotaur impatiently waited for his food, clearly unhappy at missing the conversation and having to wait behind lesser adventurers.

“Calruz is only around Level 20, but he’s also a Minotaur. He could have found his way onto a Gold-rank team, but he wanted to be in command.”

At last the talked-of Minotaur was served a double portion onto his plate. He stomped towards the table, pausing when he saw there was nowhere to sit.

He took two steps towards Ryoka and pointed to Garia. The girl flinched as Calruz growled at her.

“You. Runner. Move.”

“O-oh. Sure.”

Garia was about to slip out of her seat, but Ryoka – and surprisingly – Cervial, grabbed her by the clothing.

“Hold it, Calruz. You can’t just order someone to leave. Pull up a chair or sit at the other end of the table.”

Calruz scowled down at Cervial.

“She is no warrior. This place is reserved for adventurers, not mere Runners.”

Ryoka raised her eyebrows. Apparently, she didn’t count. Garia squeaked and trembled by her side.

“I—I can go. It’s no problem. I didn’t want to get in the way—”

“You stubborn idiot. Take my seat if you’re so desperate!”

Ceria snapped and stood up. She grabbed her plate and shoved it onto the table behind her.

“For a Captain who preaches so much about honor, you certainly don’t show much of it!”

This comment caused a hush among the nearby adventurers and especially the rest of the Horns of Hammerad, but Calruz looked unmoved. He sat at the table, ignoring Garia like a footstool.

“Honor is for those who earn it. Those who do not risk their lives in battle are not the same as true warriors.”

Ryoka frowned, but made no comment as Garia instantly went back to her food, avoiding looking at Calruz. There was a lot she wanted to say, but flipping the Minotaur’s food into his face was more appealing.

But since she had the feeling Garia might carry at least some of the Minotaur’s ire if she did it, Ryoka – reluctantly – held back. But the Minotaur’s attitude annoyed her.

Still—now that Ryoka thought about it she’d never heard Calruz say anything to the other girl. He’d talked and she’d talked when they were in the inn, but the two had never directly spoken to each other once.

As Ryoka’s eyes flicked towards Calruz and her expressionless face darkened slightly, Yvlon nudged Cervial. The taller man looked at Ryoka and spoke lightly.

“Your skill at unarmed fighting is quite incredible. I can see how it would be useful keeping away bandits and Goblins.”


Ryoka looked up, realized she’d been addressed, and shrugged.

“It helps.”

“You wouldn’t happen to be able to use any other weapons besides your fists, would you? A bow, for example?”

Across the table, Gerial objected.

“Wait a second, Cervial, if you’re going to recruit Ryoka the Horns of Hammerad have the right to make the first offer.”

Sostrom and the other adventurers agreed while the adventurers that were part of the Flawless Flight shouted from their table across the hall. Cervial laughed and raised his hands and then looked at Ryoka.

“I don’t use weapons. And I’m not interested.”

“A shame. But I hope if you see a request from us you’ll consider taking it. In fact, if you’d like we could arrange to request deliveries from you alone if you’re ever in the same area as we are.”

That got Ryoka’s attention. What Cervial was suggesting was a form of personalized contract in the Runner’s Guild. That way, he could offer her exclusive deliveries.

“Why? Any Runner can deliver healing potions.”

“But no one has the guts to do it when there’s a Lich raining spells down on our heads.”

That remark came from Sostrom, and it was met with agreement from the other adventurers. Cervial nodded.

“Being an adventurer is all about finding trustworthy contacts. Good Runners like you for instance—having someone to rely on when we’re out exploring dungeons is far better than requesting an emergency delivery and hoping the Runner we get is competent.”

He shrugged.

“Not that we ever plan to get in trouble of course, but when we’re in a pinch…at our level we need to forge friendships and build up our group. It’s not something people think about, but there’s really no other way to survive. We trust each other with our backs or we’ll fall together.”

Something about that line tickled Ryoka’s memory. She grunted and then looked at Cervial. The words came out before she could stop them. The same anger and contempt leaping from her thoughts out her mouth.

“You sound like a bunch of Runners when you say it like that.”

The mood at the table froze over for a second. Garia stared wide-eyed at Ryoka and then tried to edge back in her seat. Cervial’s smile flickered, and then came back.

“Really? That’s not a good thing, usually. The Runner’s Guild and the Adventurer’s Guild don’t get along. They think we’re all muscle-bound idiots and we think they’re—”


Calruz grunted and ate half a sausage in one huge bite.

“I wouldn’t say cowards.

Yvlon objected, but most of the other adventurers seemed to agree with Calruz. Yvlon sighed and smiled at Garia reassuringly.

“Not all of you. It’s just that it’s an unfortunate comparison to make, Ryoka.”

“Seems accurate to me.”

Ryoka deliberately popped the last bit of sausage into her mouth and took a drink, conscious of all the eyes on her. Cervial was still smiling, but it was a brittle smile.

“Really? And which Runners do we sound like?”

“Guy named Fals. He says the same things as you do. Runners have to band together in order to survive. Sacrifice the good of the individual for the group. ‘Work together or die.’”

Thoughtfully, Cervial propped his head on his hand. He was still smiling, but there was a tiny bit of anger in his eyes. Ryoka recognized it as something similar to her own. She felt…prickly. More so even than usual.

“I can agree with that. And I know Fals. He’s no coward, although he does represent most of the things I dislike about the Runner’s Guild. But he’s not wrong. It’s a tough world. Yet you seem to disagree?”

Ryoka let the question dangle. She drained her mug, replenishing lost sweat. She wiped her mouth and shrugged.

“I’m not a team player.”

Her comment ended the conversation. There wasn’t really much that you could say to that. Garia slurped at her soup nervously and tried not to meet anyone’s eyes.

“Well, in any case, if you’d like to work for any of our teams, we’d be happy to set up an arrangement. With your skills we wouldn’t have to worry about you being chased off by monsters. In fact, if you’d like to join our expedition to the ruins around Liscor to deliver supplies we could work out a deal.”

Yvlon leaned across the table and smiled at Ryoka. Calruz shook his head at her.

“Even Ryoka Griffin would do well to run from any monsters she encounters. Her fists would not be enough to allow her survival in the Liscor ruins.”

Ryoka raised her eyebrows at Calruz.

“You don’t think I can defend myself? You saw me fight.”

The Minotaur had a piece of sausage stuck in his teeth. He picked at it with one long fingernail.

“I am merely stating the truth. Your fists would do little against most monsters my team faces. Less, since you are female and thus weaker.”

He looked around in the hush. Possibly Calruz didn’t see the way Ceria’s back tensed up and the Half-elf’s head came around, or the way even Yvlon’s hand tightened on her fork. He certainly couldn’t ignore the look in Ryoka’s eyes though, and it was to her he spoke.

“Is it not the truth? Humans are weaker than Minotaurs by birth. So too are you women weaker than men.”

“Really. That’s what you think?”


Was it Ceria or Yvlon who spoke warningly? Ryoka ignored it. She reached out and tugged Calruz’s plate away as the Minotaur reached for a sausage. He looked up at her.

“Right. Your turn. Bring it on.”

For a moment the Minotaur looked confused. Then he looked amused.

“You. You, Ryoka Griffin, wish to fight me?”

He laughed, but Ryoka didn’t. And neither did the other adventurers. Gerial raised his voice, speaking low and urgently to Ryoka across the table.

“Ryoka. This isn’t a good idea.”

She ignored him.

“I’m dead serious. Fight me. Unless you’re afraid you’ll lose?”




“You idiot.

This time Ceria didn’t bother with just words. She punched Ryoka hard in the shoulder.

“You don’t challenge a Minotaur to a fight. What are you thinking? Are you even thinking?”

Ryoka shrugged as she warmed up in the practice arena again. Her nerves were thrumming, but a pit of dark emotions roiled in her chest.

“You heard what he said about females.”

“I did. And he’s got a point even if he did make it in the most bull-headed way possible. But that’s Calruz. And even if he’s being an idiot, there’s a big difference between calling him on it and challenging him to a fight. You know you’re going to lose, right?”

“Not necessarily.”

Ceria stared dumbfounded at Ryoka as the girl stretched on the ground. She looked helplessly at Yvlon.

“Help me talk sense to her?”

Yvlon nodded.

“Ceria is right, Ryoka. There’s bravado, and then there’s—this. Fighting me in armor is one thing, but Calruz is a Minotaur. He could rip my head off in unarmed combat without trying.”

“And he will if he makes a mistake.”

“I guess I’ve just got to dodge, then.”

Ryoka ignored the muted scream of fury coming from Ceria. She eyed Calruz. The Minotaur was actually finishing his meal, holding a plate as he waited for her to finish stretching. His casual indifference just lit a fire in her stomach.

“Besides, I wanted to challenge him from the start. See how far I can go.”

“How about into the ground when he puts you there? Ryoka! He’s got to weigh at least two hundred pounds more than you do!”

“Size isn’t everything.”

“It’s pretty cursed important in a fight!”

Ceria was right, of course. Ryoka eyed Calruz for the first time as a potential threat. When you looked at Calruz as a person he was just huge, inconveniently so sometimes. But as an enemy? He was way scarier than any human Ryoka had even seen.

He was about six foot seven? Maybe a few inches higher, without even counting the horns. And his body was pure muscle. Not like human muscle, but Minotaur muscle, which was to say that he looked like a wall of tendons and sinews.

It was the stupidest thing in the world to challenge him. But Ryoka really, really wanted to try. She just wanted to hit the Minotaur, almost as much as she’d wanted to hit Yvlon.

Yvlon. The adventurer was studying Ryoka thoughtfully. It made Ryoka want to punch her again, too. She was so tired and—and frustrated that hitting anything sounded good.

Like Ceria, if it would get the Half-elf to shut up.

“Potions don’t fix shattered bones! You know that. And you get him mad—”

“Look, I’m going to do it. You want to let me focus or go away and shut up?”

Silence. Ryoka glanced up and saw Ceria giving her a hurt look full of reproach. The barefoot girl’s heart hurt, but she put the pain and guilt away. She had to focus.

Ryoka was angry. She felt it bubbling in her gut, a seething, roiling ball of pure fury. Where had it come from?

From the High Passes, that’s where. From nearly dying and being helpless even with all the years she’d studied martial arts. From Teriarch and his overpowering magic and arrogance. From the Runner’s Guild and stupid people. From dealing with the ridiculous system of leveling in this world and not least—dealing with some kind of perfect lady knight and a misogynistic Minotaur. It was all bubbling out of Ryoka and she couldn’t stop it. She wanted to hit something, and Calruz was a big target.

Yvlon sighed.

“If you’re going to do this—give it all you’ve got on the first shot.”

Ceria spoke bitterly.

“He’s going to take every hit just to show he can. It’s a Minotaur thing—a sign of disrespect. And…courtship.”


Ryoka eyed Calruz. The Minotaur was finished eating. He carelessly tossed the plate over his shoulder. Ignoring the crash of breaking pottery, he walked into the center of the ring and folded his arms, waiting for her to finish.

At last the girl stood up. She was burning with a desire to fight, almost shaking with it. Ryoka couldn’t keep still as she bounced on her feet with nervous energy.

Ceria eyed the girl as she walked past her. Ryoka stopped.

“What is it?”

“You—you’re smiling.”

Was she? Ryoka couldn’t tell. She only knew that she was ready, more ready than she’d ever been to hurt someone else. She was shaking with the desire to throw a punch. She walked towards Calruz, and the Minotaur impassively looked down at her.

“What you are attempting is folly, Ryoka Griffin. There are some things that cannot be surpassed.”

He really, really knew how to push her buttons. Ryoka gritted her teeth and grinned up at him.

“Oh really? Let’s see what you say in a few minutes.”

“As you wish.”

Calruz carelessly raised one massive hand and beckoned Ryoka with a finger. The other adventurers murmured and cheered for Ryoka to hit him with her best shot. The Minotaur didn’t even bother raising his other hand.

He was going to try to block her one-handed? But his fur and muscle could probably take any punch Ryoka could throw. She knew that. So instead, Ryoka stomped her foot down in front of Calruz and twisted.

One of the core principles of a lot of powerhouse moves was spinning. Ryoka put all her weight on her front leg, twisted, and hit the Minotaur with the back of her heel and all the momentum she’d built up.

Spinning back kick. Ryoka aimed high. Her leg still caught the Minotaur in his stomach rather than his chest. She felt the contact and heard the Minotaur gasp as the wind left him. She’d put her entire weight into that attack.

It was the kind of move you used to K.O. other people and it was seldom used because of how hard it was to land. But Calruz was arrogant. He’d let his guard down and Ryoka had held nothing back.

The Minotaur’s expression changed. He was obviously trying not to show any pain, but his hand reflexively went down to protect his stomach and he bent just a tiny bit. Ryoka didn’t wait. Even as her foot came down she used it as an anchor and swung her other leg up.

Her leg came up and she smashed into Calruz’s face with a roundhouse kick. She didn’t break his nose, but that was probably because the Minotaur didn’t have a nice fleshy bit of cartilage like humans.

This time he bellowed, but Ryoka wasn’t done. She landed and started laying into the Minotaur, punching hard.

He swiped at her with one hand. Ryoka ducked under it and belted him twice in the stomach. Calruz shouted as she hit the same spot she’d kicked and shoved her with one arm.

Ryoka was thrown sideways, but she landed, jumped, and kicked the Minotaur in the chest. He staggered back, looking outraged. She pounded his chest.

Now he was really starting to get angry. Calruz punched at her far faster than she would have guessed he’d be able to move, but Ryoka did the same thing she had to Yvlon. Her head and body were in constant motion as she ducked and weaved, letting the Minotaur swing wide.

Low kick. Ryoka hammered Calruz’s legs with powerful kicks, wincing internally at the impact. The Minotaur had goat-like legs with cloven hooves, and it felt like she was kicking a baseball bat when she hit him.

He nearly got her with an uppercut. Ryoka grinned, turned, and kicked him straight on with a kick to the stomach again. She raised her hands; hit him twice in the stomach—

And then he punched her.




Ryoka jerked upright and felt multiple sets of hands pushing her down. Someone was on top of her. Someone light?

A pair of pointed ears and hazel hair. Ceria covered Ryoka protectively as she shouted at something. Something?

A loud roar of fury made Ryoka sit up. She looked up and saw Calruz being held back by ten men as he tried to rush at her. The Minotaur’s eyes were actually red with rage and a trickle of blood was running from both nostrils.

What had happened? Ryoka tried to move, felt the agony coming out of her chest and realized she’d been hit. Hit.

She couldn’t breathe. Hell, she could barely move. Calruz was shouting something, her ears were ringing, and Ceria was telling her to stay still. But Ryoka’s blood was still on fire. She still wanted to fight.

She stood up.

“Hold it!”

Ceria pushed Ryoka down, but the girl knocked her off and stood up. She raised her firsts, but now Garia, Yvlon, and Ceria were all pulling her back.

A few feet away Gerial was swearing and pulling at Calruz with all his might as the Minotaur roared a challenge at Ryoka.

“Calm down, Calruz! Hold still, gods damn it!”

Ceria was talking desperately to Ryoka, as the girl strained towards the Minotaur.

“You’ve made your point, Ryoka. No one’s underestimating you. Let’s stop before someone gets seriously hurt.”

Her brain wasn’t synching up with her mouth. Ryoka tried a few times.

“No. Let’s keep going.”

“Are you crazy?

“I’m not done. Let Calruz go. I’ll take him on.”

The men holding the Minotaur gaped at Ryoka and then redoubled their efforts to hold the raging Minotaur.


Another man strode forwards and stood between Ryoka and Calruz. He had a huge axe on his back and he was nearly as burly as the Minotaur, if not quite so tall. He glared at Ryoka.

“Gerial, get your Captain under control. And you, girl, back down!”

Gregor, one of the Silver-rank Captains, scowled as the men eventually managed to push Calruz back. The Minotaur was still breathing heavily, but his eyes were no longer red with fury.

“This was a ridiculous display. What are you both doing? The Adventurer’s Guild is not a place for anything but training spars, much less unarmed foolishness.”

He pointed at Ryoka.

“You’re a hothead Runner, and challenging a Minotaur just proves how idiotic you are. No matter how good you are with your fists, it won’t help you against monsters. You’ve seen the ones in the High Passes. Swords and even battleaxes don’t work on their hides.”

Ryoka glared at him. His words were true, and they hurt.

“I survived.”

“Must’ve been a miracle, then. The way you act, I’m surprised you haven’t offed yourself already. You’re either suicidal or an idiot. Even adventurers don’t pull idiotic stunts like this.”

“I don’t need an axe to do my job. And I don’t need you to tell me what to do. Back off. I’ll take on Calruz without you lot getting in the way.”

Gregor opened and closed his mouth with wordless fury.

“You blind, arrogant—if Ceria hadn’t jumped in the way he would have crushed your head like a fruit. You can’t take him. Back down.”

Ryoka eyed Calruz. He was restraining himself—with difficulty—but she knew if the men stopped holding him he’d rush right at her. And she felt like doing the same. Her blood was boiling.

“I can still fight.”

“Even if you were Level 20 he’d still be able to crush you like a bug! And you’re no warrior. You don’t have any fighting skills that I saw—”

“I don’t need Skills to fight.”

“But you don’t even have any levels.”

Everyone stopped talking. Gregor paused, red-faced, ready to shout and stared at the person who had spoken. Yvlon smiled at Ryoka and nodded once politely.

“I don’t understand. And truthfully, I didn’t believe my aunt when she told me that. But it is true, isn’t it? I couldn’t believe it until just now, but it must be true. You don’t have any levels or any classes at all, do you?”

Ryoka stared at her wordlessly. Anger surged in her belly. How dare she? How did she know?

“Not one.”

Cervial spoke from behind Ryoka. He was studying her. As she turned to stare at him he tapped one eye.

“[Appraisal]. It’s a Skill that [Marksmen] get sometimes. I can’t see your Level or your Class.”

Even Calruz was dumbfounded by this revelation. The adventurers exchanged glances, and Ryoka heard the whispering.

“No levels?”


“Is she some kind of demi-human—no, a monster?”

“Who wouldn’t Level? Is she a fool?”


Ryoka gritted her teeth.

“I don’t need levels to fight.”

Gregor shook his head at her, disbelieving.

“What are you, an idiot? How would you survive a second against a monster without levels?”

The fury that was boiling in Ryoka seized hold of her tongue.

“It’s not about levels. Your stupid little system doesn’t interest me. I don’t believe in needing levels or classes. It’s all stupid and it makes you cowards. Silver-rank? Gold-rank? You just use those words because you don’t have the guts to fight.

The words came out of Ryoka before she could stop herself. She pointed at Gregor as the man’s face turned red. But all of the adventurers were listening and Ryoka couldn’t stop.

“I survived the High Passes without a single level. I did it, because I wasn’t afraid and needed half a dozen people in armor to hold my hand. And if you lot had any guts, you wouldn’t sit around whining about how a bunch of unexplored ruins are too dangerous.”

“You truly believe you can surpass the rest of us without needing to level don’t you?”

Yvlon stared hard at Ryoka, for once not smiling. Even Garia was staring at Ryoka as if seeing her for the first time.

Ryoka didn’t answer. She just wiped at the blood coming from her mouth. But that was an answer in itself.

“What arrogance.”

It came from out of the crowd. Ryoka turned, and this time the blood in her veins was roaring. She was beyond caring about anything.

“Really? Arrogance? All I see are people too afraid to do anything until they level up. People who have to hide in a group to cover how pitiful they are.”

A murmur of hot anger went through the adventurers. Ryoka raised her fists.

“I’ll take you on one by one or all at once. Come on. Fight me.”


This time it was Ceria who shoved at Ryoka. The Half-elf was angry.

“You’re talking nonsense. But I won’t let you stand here and get yourself hurt. Stop this or I’ll have to use magic—”

It was just an impulse. But once it was started, Ryoka couldn’t stop. Her hand shot out and brushed Ceria’s chin. The Half-elf blinked, staggered, and sat down.

Ryoka stared at the Half-elf, rage eclipsed by sudden regret. She hadn’t meant to. She just wanted to get the mage to shut up for a second. But like before, like so many times before her body had started moving before her brain.

A roar of anger came from Calruz. Suddenly he was throwing off the other adventurers as they tried desperately to slow him down. Her approached Ryoka, and she tensed.

But he didn’t strike at her. Instead, Calruz scooped up Ceria gently. He stared down at her, practically steaming with rage.

“You tread on Ceria’s honor. For that I should challenge you to a duel with real weapons.”

“I’ll take you on.”

Something inside of Ryoka was snapping. She was full of fury and beyond caring what would happen next. Calruz seemed to vibrate at her challenge, but with incredible effort he turned away.

“You are not worth the time it would take.”

Ryoka’s temper flared. She spoke to the Minotaur’s back, hearing each word leave her lips as some part of her screamed at her not to say them.

“I didn’t think you were a coward, Calruz.”

Gerial lunged. Not towards Ryoka, but with the rest of the Horns of Hammerad as they seized the Minotaur. Calruz’s head turned and his eyes darkened with blood and rage. But he didn’t move with Ceria’s limp form in his hands. His voice quivered with fury.

“I was mistaken about you. You are no warrior. You just want something to hit.”

He began to walk away. Ryoka shouted after him.

“Calruz! Fight me! Come back here, you coward! Are you afraid?”

The Minotaur’s back tensed, but he kept walking. Gregor stared at Ryoka in fury, hand twitching towards his axe hilt.

“Enough! I won’t stand here and listen to this. If you want a fight, try your fists against my axe, girl.

“Bring it.”

Ryoka raised her hands. But Yvlon stepped forwards.

“Enough. Restrain yourself, Ryoka Griffin.”

Something was snapping inside of Ryoka. It was the same feeling, the exact same. Part of her was shouting for her to put down her fists, to apologize. To get down on her hands and knees and bow before Ceria and Calruz. But like before, like so many times when she’d been kicked out of school, she’d crossed over the event horizon of fury.

She just wanted to punch. To hit something. And now that she’d let out all the bile in her stomach, Ryoka only knew how to lash out. So she did.

Her fist blurred and disappeared as it shot towards Yvlon’s face. But it was intercepted and crossed by a flash of silver.

Ryoka felt the punch lift her off her feet. She tried to step forwards, but her body suddenly forgot how to stand up. She sat down, as her arms and legs simply shut down.

The world spun, and Ryoka saw Yvlon’s face full of regret and frustration. Her head fell back—




And when Ryoka awoke, she was alone. Not physically alone, but alone nevertheless.

Dusk had engulfed the sky. The sparring area of the Adventurer’s Guild was empty, save for Ryoka and the Half-elf sitting on the ground next to her.

Ceria looked up as Ryoka sat up. The barefoot girl looked around dizzy, and as Ryoka opened her mouth Ceria tapped her wand on Ryoka’s head.


Ryoka was mute. The girl’s mouth opened but no words came out. Ceria looked at her, and shook her head. She reached behind her and picked up Ryoka’s pack and carefully put it next to the girl. Then Ceria sighed and stared up at the sky.

“I’ve seen a lot of arrogance in my time. Mostly from Humans, but from every people, including my own. But someone who rejects the way the world works just because she doesn’t like it—that’s new. It’s been a while since I was hit by someone I call a friend as well.”

She looked at Ryoka. The girl couldn’t meet her eyes.

“If you want to keep fighting everyone who reaches out to help you, I’ll put a flower on your grave. But until then, get your stupid Human head back in order. You’re lucky—very lucky that Calruz is honorable, and that the other adventurers listened to Yvlon and Cervial or you might have suffered quite a bit.”

Ryoka was silent. She stared at the ground, face flushed. Memory only now returning.

“I don’t understand you. I truly don’t. I thought you were sensible, but you’re even more hotheaded than Calruz. And you have less sense.”

Ceria shook her head as Ryoka opened her mouth and tried to say something.

“No. Be silent. I am angry at you. And I am leaving until that anger is gone. The Horns of Hammerad and the other adventurers are heading to the ruins in Liscor. All of us. At least your words stirred some courage in this crowd. But I am still furious. After we are finished with the ruins, we will speak again.”

The Half-elven mage stood up and brushed at her robes. She waved her wand, and Ryoka felt the spell on her dissipate.

“May we meet in new forests, Ryoka Griffin.”

Silently, Ryoka watched Ceria go. A thousand words spun through her mind, and she opened her mouth to call something. But when the doors to the Adventurer’s Guild closed behind Ceria, it was in silence.

The girl sat in the center of the sparring arena and felt the bruises and pain begin to flare up in her body. She was still exhausted, still hurt. But somehow, all of that was a backdrop to the incredible, terrible emptiness in her heart.

She’d done it. As before, now again. See—a girl who destroys everything she touches. Who wanders from school to school, never fitting in, picking fights with friends and anyone who crosses her way.

A child with nothing to hit who decides to fight the world. A barefoot runner who speaks with her fists. A heart full of black fury and hurtful words who spreads her foulness wherever she goes.

Angry girl. Rabid dog. Berserker. Suicidally competitive. Friendless loner. Lost soul.

Ryoka Griffin.

She’d lost friends before. She’d made enemies, burned bridges. Wherever she’d gone, from each school she’d transferred to, she’d left behind only bitter memories. Each time she’d lost control she’d only left tears and regrets behind. She was used to erasing smiles.

But it had never hurt quite like this before.

Ryoka stood up and felt the silence closing in. The silence, and the empty despair that came with it. She looked at the ground and saw the blood of an honorable person. She looked behind her and knew there was no one at her back. A familiar, painful sight.

She could barely feel her hands. She was exhausted, upset, guilty, and angry. She didn’t know what to do.

Slowly, Ryoka’s feet moved. She took one step, and then another. Ryoka picked her pack up off the ground and began to walk.

She left the Adventurer’s Guild. She ignored the voices, the chances to turn back. She saw the decorated carriage, ignored the [Maids] and [Assassins] that blocked her way. She just ran on.

Away, away, always away. Until the dawn breaks and the end of day. Running from fear and friends alike, striving to always run, always be in flight. And though her heart bled and ached, she runs on again.

Towards Liscor and the Blood Plains without a plan. Towards death and the unknown. Running. Always running without pausing. Leaving bloody footprints made of her unshed tears and broken ties.


Running away.


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92 thoughts on “1.12 R

  1. I can’t figure it out. I really can’t. This one–send me comments and I’ll try to fix it.

    On a different topic since it seems like the writing gears in me are a bit broken. I’m considering publishing this web serial to RoyalRoadl after getting a lot of comments. But part of the reason I haven’t so far is that I really don’t want to have to update two different sites, not to mention drawing traffic away from this blog etc. etc.

    So my though was to publish the first 20 or so chapters on Royal Road and then link back to the blog. I’m not sure if that would be objectionable to readers, but it’s the only thing I can think of.

    Besides that, I’ve always wanted to expand my story to other countries. I know the USA crowd is the biggest percentage of my viewers by far, but I wonder if any of my readers from abroad know of any sites like Reddit I could post to?

    Someday I want to publish my story to the Japanese light novel crowd, but translation is something that seems far-off at the moment. Still, the thought that there’s an untapped audience out there bugs me. If anyone’s got any suggestions in that area, I’ll take it.

    Otherwise, thanks for reading. This chapter is longer than normal and–

    I just don’t know. I tried to make it good. Honestly, I did. I have a bad feeling I didn’t do it well enough, though.

    • I’ve been enjoying this story, but never has my opinion of a character just switched in a single chapter. I utterly despise Ryoka now and im not interested in reading anything more about her. You have made her utterly unlikeble, like a rabid dog that needs to be put down for its own good before it hurts someone. I literally can’t be bothered clicking next to read any more youve made me that put off by the character

      • Ey
        Some people just need another chance
        Don’t tell me you’ve never lost control and made really bad choices
        Besides, you can see she feels really bad about what she did

      • Really? Huh. I feel a lot less respect for her now, but I’m actually more interested in the rest of her character arc. Before it was too cliche for me and I was only into Erin’s story, but now I want Ryoka to grow as a person too.

      • Quite the reverse; for the first time she feels completely real. You seriously think someone who is used to being self sufficient and then endured a horrific violation of her self, autonomy and even thoughts can just come home and smile at people? That’s not how people work. Ryoka had anger management issues and stubborn pride before; now she has a real reason to be out of control angry and she’s helpless against the person she really needed to hit.

        Of course she’s pushing friends away. That’s what abuse victims without experience asking for help do. It’s what autistic people who aren’t pressured into social situations they don’t want do. It’s what people with anger management problems do. And Ryoka is all three.

    • Quite the opposite, this chapter has moved me. Chapter like this, and Erin’s reaction to her first kill, are what solidifies how much I like this story.

      She’s broken. It’s very human.

      I first read her entire ‘tantrum’ as a pent-up stress and anger, at being thrown in a different world, at all the abuse she got from Persua, at being angry with the Guild who let her be crippled but can’t do anything with that anger*, at her secrets being thrown out to the public without the slightest regard of her choice of secrecy, and the scorn her decision brought.

      *I’m actually surprised nothing happened after she got back to the city.

      Reading the comments uncovered layers of her personality that totally makes sense to me, and it’s what makes the story beautiful. People being people.

      Also I find it really beautiful that our 2 MC has the exact opposite “problems”, the lack of violence (and awareness of what her knowledge would do) and having too much violence. And they both have problems with them.

    • So Ryoka is acting like a bitch to the people who stood up for her, fixed her leg, and taught her magic for what?? I don’t understand what’s the point of this. To show that she’s human? I feel like you wrote this chapter purely for the shock value. Such a shame since I really enjoyed Ryoka’s character development when she heartfully thanked them for fixing her leg.

      Don’t get me started on how she refuses to level because she doesn’t like being controlled. She is so edgy I might cut myself. TBH this chapter was unpleasant to read and I’m seriously considering dropping this now.

    • The end of this chapter sets me at ease.

      when Ryoka fought Yvlon i felt kind of dissapointed that she could actually put up a decent fight against a seasoned high leveled warrior who probably have superhuman abilities because of her Classes. despite the fact that Ryoka had actively avoided levelling up.
      Ryoka just felt like to overpowered to be interesting anymore.

      But in the end the narrative of the story shifted and she was revealed to be an dumbass rather than a badass which makes her a much more interesting character.

    • I’d just like to say, as someone who knows, deeply, what anger issues are like, that you did a fantastic job with this chapter. I have somehow managed to not burn any bridges, the way Ryouka has, but you captured the rage perfectly. It truly resonated.

      Not everyone will understand, but then again, is there anything that everyone understands? By the comments, it seems others felt disgusted. I felt Ryouka’s anger, deeply.

      Be proud of this chapter, please.

      • Seconding this, on my second read through.

        I remember having strong negative feelings after reading this chapter the first time. Not “rage quit this story” feelings, just that lingering sense of unease that I’ve actually come to treasure from TWI. Feelings that strong only happen when the writing resonates, and it’s short-sighted at best to think that will only come from the sunshine and rainbow moments.

      • I cannot agree enough with this post.

        Even after all the Anger Management and VA therapists, nothing has brought it home like this chapter. That rage, the lit fuse getting completely out of control, the anger at fkn EVERYTHING….
        The beating yourself up about it afterwards but unable to stop in the moment. The recognition of how fkd off in the head you are but once that fire is lit you just want to see it all burn.

        This chapter helped me. Even if a lot of comments can’t/don’t/won’t understand, you’ve done a better job describing how it feels than I have ever encountered in decades of avid reading.

        Thank you.

    • Wow a lot hitting the fan,but I want to know, is Ryoka a Mage or a monster? She did not get Mage level 1.

    • Looks like you are riddled with a hell of mixed messages. I thought it read pretty cool-like. Good luck sifting.

    • When a character leaves such an evisceral impact on a reader such as Ryoka, I think the author has done a great job!!!!

      P.S. sometimes, I have to quit reading for a bit, then come back if a character is really being terrible..

  2. Wow… I guess it isn’t a surprise with Ryoka’s normal attitude. But this certainly left a bitter taste in my mouth even more so than the death of an important character.

  3. Ok, this update seriously pushed Ryoka from “has an anger management problem” into self destructive/fucking stupid territory. Rabid dog is an apt description. Not only is Ryoka incapable of losing a domination contest, she has to start those with anyone she perceives as annoying( roughly 99.99% of the world population apparently). And then her pride in her martial arts, any real martial artist would know that you do not fight competent armed people unarmed unless you really have no other option.

    Add the fact that Ryoka punched Ceria, who tried her best to be helpful, and the rabid dog turns into a rabid bitch, insult fully intended. ( English is not my mother language, so I am not entirely sure, but bitch feels right at the moment even if it should have a sexist component. What is the male equivalent to bitch anyway?)

    Anyway, even though I start to dislike Ryoka I continue to enjoy the Wandering Inn. Thank you for writing.

    • I don’t think we have a male equivalent for ‘bitch’. In the English language a male bitch is just a dog which doesn’t seem fair.

      Your English seems fine to me. Thanks for reading!

      • The term as used is a reference to behaviours exhibited by female dogs. Which behaviours is somewhat dependent on context, hence why the term can be used to refer both to someone who is highly and unnecessarily aggressive and to someone who is inordinately submissive. (Dog social interactions are remarkably complex.)

        In this particular case, the closest English male equivalent would probably be ‘bastard’, which is a reference to the behaviour patterns of someone who is a source of shame to one or both of their parents merely by existing and therefore expects to be hunted and killed at the slightest provocation (or even at no provocation at all) and who stands to inherit absolutely nothing (making him an abysmal marriage candidate) unless all of his “legitimate” siblings somehow wind up dead…

        I can’t really think of a “Gender Neutral” equivalent off the top of my head. I’m not sure it really needs one given that the insult value in either case stems from the exhibited behaviour, not from the sex of the creature to which the comparison is being made.

    • Nah, Ryoka is stressing out and on the verge of having (or just had) a bit of breakdown. Think about it — she has been kidnapped, dealing with culture shock, feels hunted by Magnolia, and has been enslaved by an elven asshole.

      I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner.

        • Ryoka has been kicked out of multiple schools for the exact same behaviours. She has alwayd been excessively arrogant, just look at how she looks down at everyone (is against runners banding together yet is happy to take jobs got from them bandinh together…). This has been a constant in her from the beginning, because she views herself as unloveable and projects that self hate onto others (they are only pretending to be my friends so they can use me, because I am strong and they are weak). This episode and the prior ones have just forced her to accept the reality that others aren’t all weaker than her and that she needs others. Emotionally she’s a child and can’t accept it, so like anyone who can’t control themselves she tries to control others physically.

          I’m glad that Ryouka finally got called up on her arrogance, but I think it should have been more of a curb stomp (Ryoka comes across as a little bit of a MarySue, though this chapter has done a lot to bring balance).

  4. Updating two sites, yeah, that would be a pain – but as for drawing people away from the blog, you could update there a bit later than here, direct people to this blog if they want to read the chapters faster.

    As for this chapter… eh, meh, I dunno. It’s not an awful chapter, but I’ll admit I skimmed about half of it, and here a few things that made it difficult for me to stay engaged.

    First – two fights.

    What is this, a tournament arc? :P Srsly though, you basically have her doing the exact same thing twice, and that’s a bit of a slog.

    Secondly, foreshadowing.

    This chapter seems to re-cast what some of her previous behavior meant, but only after it’s affected events. It… kinda comes together at the end, but if her self-destructive tendencies were foreshadowed, it might be more obvious that this chapter is tragic, not heroic, and she’s falling apart. If I’d had the information at the end from the beginning, I might have found her behavior less frustrating and annoying to read, because it’s pretty obvious that she’s getting in over her head for no good reason –

    which leads to number three, motivations.

    Why she does what she does isn’t clear. Or rather, why she does it to this extent at this time, is unclear. Garia mentions it – ‘that makes no sense!’ – but lampshading a problem doesn’t really make it go away. Even if her self-destructive tendencies were foreshadowed more strongly, what exactly is it that pushes her over the edge here? Did she melt down simply because she got too tired? I mean, yeah, IRL you don’t need a reason to melt down. But that’s the difference between fiction and real life – fiction needs to make sense. :P

    I dunno, maybe I missed something important in the middle, where I was skimming. But these are the bits that bothered me most here.

    • I agree with this. I personally can’t imagine what kind of motivation someone could have to behave like that. (which might be a good thing for me and my mental health) This makes it somewhat difficult to relate to Ryoka. On the other hand the end does enligthen us a tiny bit to why she was so much of a loner and agressive person in previous instances. I’m looking forward to how this will turn out. =)

      • “This makes it somewhat difficult to relate to Ryoka.”

        And I’m sure Ryoka would be glad to hear that. She doesn’t want people to “relate” to her, she wants them to leave her the hell alone.

        Honestly this can be a decent literary device if done properly. Get the reader to absolutely despise a character, and then share the piece of their backstory that makes it all come together in a heart-rending way.

    • Why do people with dyslexia, aphasias, autism, schizophrenia, dwarfism or spina bifida find themselves lashing out in frustration they can never adequately describe?

      Because they don’t fit into any social positions in the world and they always never fit in because they can’t. Biology conspired against them, society doesn’t get it or them and trying to explain this is like repeatedly hitting your head against a brick wall. :P

      It’s like being gaslighted every day in numerous ways both big and small. And, that’s all within a world you have some rough means of coping with because you grew up banging your elbows on it… :P

      She makes perfect sense to me (chronic fatigue syndrome, aphantasia, an astigmatism with a convergent squint, and a strong avoidant personality bordering on being disordered even without the other issues — I never see things quite the way I’m supposed to, either).

    • I know, I know. It’s like Dragon Ball Z. The only thing I could have done worse is give Ryoka a power-up sequence lasting three chapters.

      I think this is the first chapter where it’s clear that I’m losing out without having time to go back and edit. If I could, I would have removed that interlude scene somehow and just had Ryoka keep lashing out. Also, foreshadowing the self-destructive tendencies is something I tried to do, but should have laid the groundwork for/made more explicit long ago.

      Part of the meltdown is nonsensical, and one of the reasons why I had such a bad feeling about this chapter is that it’s very, very hard to portray that right. Hence the longer chapter and my uncertainty about it. Ryoka’s tired, yes, and she doesn’t like Yvlon for reasons that aren’t entirely fair — the outcast hating the popular person — again, yes, and she disagrees with levelling in general and the need to work together, yes.

      But the reason why she snaps just happens to come together with her wanting to lash out and doing it in the wrong way. It’s just a bad moment compounded by saying too much and speaking with her fists. That’s the problem I’m working with and you’re right about — it’s a real life situation that I have to write and make sense of fictionally.

      Anyways, sorry it was long enough to skim. I’ll try and fix this later, but hopefully I’ve got some better writing in my pocket I can pull out. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • It was there, though. *confused* I’ve just reread. Heck, I got it the first time: likely autistic, politician father, childhood spent around a lot of people high on smarm and low on honesty, much perceived (and, likely actual) betrayal, huge early swerve into physical activity as stress relief that doesn’t always work (and to piss dad off, probably: little china doll to drag out for rallies she won’t be!) = one very, very angry intelligent, but often socially and emotionally flummoxed lassie. :/

      • I agree with Hat and Mira. Character’s don’t have to be likeable but making them understandable is a worthy goal. Editing for clearer motivational and pacing would help you reinforce your readers’ memory of why Ryoka behaves as she does…and – as I think you’ve done previously – expanding the explanation by exploring distinct psychological avenues rather than mostly repeating facts is a good approach.

        Euodiachloris’s insights are nifty too. Not saying you need to spell it out like a psychiatric case-study but it wouldn’t hurt for you to reduce the number of times you highlight how tired and exhausted and irritable Ryoka felt and exchange one or two of those moments with some associated memory / flashback / or fleeting thought that isn’t entirely present related.

        Like at least one of the other commenters, I am a confused as to why Ryoka cannot extend her powerful gratitude and appreciation for being healed (warped internally as she may be) into this situation. Annoyance and lack of sleep and anger can all feed into bad behavior but most folks who do not just “snap” but rather move towards / escalate their actions over time would experience conflicting emotions / values – they might still behave like a jerkwad but they’ll be aware of countervailing thoughts, options, and their own history. The way you present Ryoka here does not do her character justice. Maybe 1/2+ justice.

    • Hat said “if her self-destructive tendencies were foreshadowed”

      Wut? Ryoka has already talked about troubles with her very political dad, and we’ve seen her take on Persua’s thug, and we’ve heard her talk about being thrown out of schools twice, and about how she wanted to to MMA which is not all candy and flowers.

      How much foreshadowing do you need?

    • Ryouka is and always has been like this. If you have knowledge of mental health, particularly attachment there is tons of foreshadowing. Just look at all reactions to anyone being nice to her and how she looks down on people/prescribes bad motives/rampant sexism.

  5. You’re gonna get there some day, Ryoka. I hope. That was nowhere near being a proper intervention, and only caused you to run away again from what’s truly wrong. Which, uh, feels like wasn’t clarified enough. The part in which what was really wrong with Ryoka. Along with not bringing up ever again how thankful Ryoka was with getting her leg fixed, and later on her phone, well–

    Did she maybe bottle up her anger from the mismatched potions given to her? Or is the stress of specifically not thinking about the person in the High Passes (and his forced quest) getting to her? Maybe it was added on with the fact that she’s holding back the world itself from changing her both fundamentally and level-y?

  6. It reminds me of quite a few people I’ve met over the years. And it’s probably lucky she never did get to spar.

    And I’m from the UK as you wanted to know about non US readers.

  7. I’ve noticed something.

    There’s some stories that have a chapter like this – the protagonist shows their weakness in an unexpected way. An unsympathetic way. Things go wrong, the mess they’re in gets messier, and it’s their own fault. A character trait thought to be a virtue becomes a terrible flaw – perseverance becomes stubbornness, empathy becomes vulnerability, righteous anger becomes unjustified rage. That thing I’ve noticed, to my surprise (although it shouldn’t be surprising) is that fans *hate* this.

    It’s surprising because all the best stories have this.

    You’re modeling some of what you do, on Wildbow and Worm, yeah? But you hadn’t read it when you started this, if I remember right. See, I read that story from when Wildbow had been at it maybe 2 months. Before his first marathon week. You have no concept of how many people ragequit after some of the plot twists, and announced this loudly in the comments. I mean, these people were ANGRY with capital letters. I always admired how Wildbow handled that – he didn’t ignore those types of comments, but he didn’t waver either. He knew his characters and he was telling their story, warts and all.

    I guess what I’m saying is, take a breath and soldier on. You did fine this chapter. I was uncomfortable reading it – I felt angry, I felt a little betrayed, I felt maybe a bit of guilty pleasure at seeing Ryoku taken down a peg, but most of all… I felt.

    That has to be the mark of a damned good story.

    • Honesty to on? Cards on the table? I still haven’t gotten past the first arc of Worm. It’s been on my list, but like the Game of Throne series I don’t want to read it until I have the time to actually get through it in one sitting.

      I’m glad you and other readers have felt this chapter. That’s the sign something went right. But I do know that on a technical level it could have been better. Hat’s comment highlights some of the errors I’ve made. But if people felt strongly about Ryoka’s choices, at least I’m half of the way there.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Write the ending first. Know where your characters will be by the time you’re done. Then chart your course in that direction. It helps.


        One sitting? Whaa?

        Godspeed, please don’t die. We’ll miss you.

    • I don’t know enough or read other things enough to judge this chapter or this comment, but I feel like posting:

      Soldier on. I felt. I did not skim.

    • I wholeheartedly agree whit this. Yes it would’ve been easy to let her reconcile, poor her heart out, and be happy and merry on her way. However.. This fits her character.

      As Don stated “I felt angry, I felt a little betrayed” – I felt the same, but it felt like it fit. And that what makes a story. It makes me want to skip till the next updates and see how see handles herself. Will she pick herself up, see her mistakes and face them. Or just keep running, and hoping the world is big enough to keep running?

      Al in all, I enjoyed the chapter. It was unexpected, touching and absolutely good enough too keep on reading :D

  8. I think that this chapter was written incredibly well. All of the issues and tension that have been bottling up got pushed to the forefront and we see why she runs, why she doesn’t like people. She has trouble compromising, she has trouble empathizing and the world has never made sense to her so she lashes out.

    This scene is reminiscent of the behavior of abused children and animals. When a traumatized child is put into a good home with good l3gal guardians there is an initial bit of mutual good Fath between both. Then negative thoughts start eating at the previously abused, the previously hurt party, and that child will lash out and self-destruct in a way similar to this.

    You did anot exceptional job writing this chapter.

  9. I wanted her to win. I’ve wanted to win like she wanted to win. Backing down and finding peaceful solutions is extremely hard, and I found this chapter incredibly realistic. Piling threats on or expressing even realistic concerns to our personalities is not a good move when we’re angry; we need to step back, not get knocked back or pulled back. I’ve learned to give myself space and receive it from others(by requesting or losing a fight to win the war), but she hasn’t learned that yet, although this experience may help. The Minotaur finally did what everyone should have done to start with, recognized and stopped encouraging her destruction. This isn’t poorly written, this is poorly understood.

  10. It’s a bit like Ryoka was escaping from something by fighting. Of course I’ve never been in the head of someone engaged in self-destructive violence like that, but I’m sure that, besides relieving stress, fighting can take a person’s mind off of something they don’t want to think about.

  11. I liked this chapter. Plot and character development are believable and satisfying. Im frustrated by and for Ryoka because the story feels real.

    My only criticism:
    Maybe the perspective is the issue. This chapter starts out from Garia’s point of view. Maybe if we watched Ryoka go wild from the outside we could more easily accept that we don’t fully know what demons drive her. It’s makes it difficult to look out Ryoka’s eyes and not have an explicit grasp of her motivation.

    Maybe I’m missing that Ryoka doesn’t understand all of the factors herself – just that she just gets twisted up and goes berserk. Or has she, by refusing levels, made herself wild?

  12. “hi Ryoka” — hi, Ryoka; “Hold it Calruz” — it, Calruz; “a second Cervial” — second, Cervial; “Calm down Calruz! Hold still gods damn it!” – down, Calruz & still, gods; “here you coward” — here, you
    “Ryoka was about to fight. The other girl had a—a certain expression” — -other ?
    “person.A popular” — space
    “Cervial’s team – the Flawless Flights, mine” — double space (and possibly interpunction check ?)
    “agreement from the other runners” — [other] adventurers
    “Possible Calruz didn’t see the way” — Possibly ? (check the whole paragraph for flow – looked around in the hush .. possibly didn’t see.. certainly couldn’t ignore)
    “was right of course” — right, of
    “The Minotaur didn’t even both raising his other hand.” — bother
    (“What arrogance.” — +an ?)

    I was totally expecting to be upset/angry over this, but in the end it made me mostly just sad. I think Iume’s comment (“I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner.”) clicked for me, even if the school mentions make it a more ongoing ?anger management? issue..

  13. finish stretching…[and then] ….At last the girl stood up. ‘the girl’ you are referencing here, this is Ryoka, right?

    wut? She was stretching at the crowded lunchtable, sitting down?

    Ryoka couldn’t tell. ->This is a good place to insert a mirror joke

  14. Ah, so this is what it’s like to read something from the perspective of someone I really wouldn’t like in real life. Congrats on how sympathetic you made her anyway.

  15. I could leave this on any Runner chapter but will leave it here. As others have said, it’s fine to write unlikeable characters with significant internal turmoil. But it’s nevertheless important for your reader to understand what those characters are doing. Their actions don’t have to “make sense” or be reasonable from the reader’s perspective — you could never achieve that anyway since every reader will be different — but the reader has to be able to understand why the actions make sense from the character’s perspective.

    My objection here isn’t to the self-destructive behavior necessarily. She can’t help herself — fine. The point I want to make is about the leveling. She calls it “cheating” but that’s patently absurd without some explanation. She’s trying to apply Earth rules to another place and saying that the other place’s rules are cheating even while she plays the other place’s game. Totally ridiculous.

    To give an example, say she learned to play chess where pawns can only ever move up one spot — even on their first move. Then she goes somewhere where pawns can move up two spots on their first move. Everyone plays that way. And she refuses to do it — insisting on only moving up one spot — even though that’s not how the game is played where she’s now at.

    Her thinking doesn’t make sense.

    I assume your thinking is that she doesn’t like how people automatically acquire skills that you have to study for on Earth through this system — that it is “cheating” to get strong through a skill instead of heavy lifting over a long period of time. Again, that strikes me as being angry that the world is round. A much more practical attitude would be to take the position that leveling cannot REPLACE real training and understanding. A level 30 with real skill from hard work and practice would wipe the floor with a level 30 who just relies on [Skills].

    It’s entirely possible (if not likely) that I’m just a minority perspective since I haven’t seen others gripe about this, but I hate it about your story and feel it could be addressed with one paragraph much earlier in the story — explaining why she rejects this thinking. Because leaving your reader thinking the character’s actions are ridiculous (even from their perspective) doesn’t make for a good story.

    • I have to agree with you on this one. It’s one thing for a character to have a viewpoint that seems unreasonable or that is patently “wrong” (at least from a reader’s perspective). It’s entertaining to read because the reader can see a different viewpoint from their own or get upset that the character is doing something so irrational. But that only works if it makes sense from the own character’s point of view.

      Ryoka’s reasoning and thinking really doesn’t make sense, even knowing that she has a very antagonistic view of the world and society. She’s rejected the idea of levels, but her reasons are flimsy and don’t feel believable. She feels like they are cheating? She does not like the idea of level limits? But why? And why is it such a big deal that she’s willing spit in the face of something that would help her survive in this world? We see the results of her decision, but as I reader I just don’t understand what her motivation for feeling that way is and that takes me out of the story.

      I think what I would like to see is some kind of backstory/flashback that explains what it is about this concept of skills and limits that makes her so resentful. If, for example, there was a student at her Muy Thai dojo that was unreasonably better than her at martial arts and outstripped her abilities effortlessly and in a fraction of the time it took her to learn. Something along those lines would explain the extreme distaste that she has towards levels and skills.

      All that being said, I am very much enjoying the story and have been marathoning the series for the past week. The chapters are very compelling and I have been reading them at a breakneck pace. So even though some of the Ryoka chapters are frustrating due to the murky motivations involved, I am still very much enjoying the series and look forward to reading more.

  16. I’m wondering what the hell kind of trauma produced this level of aggro. It’s like Ryoka hates herself and is borderline suicidal.

  17. So…a slightly harsh review coming up. I know you wrote this a while ago, but it might be useful for editing purposes.

    This chapter was entirely too melodramatic for my liking, and it turned Ryoka into a character I feel nothing about and don’t care to read about either. She has always been extremely unlikable, but now she’s become unreadable as well. I had to force myself through most of this chapter, and it was painful to watch her turn on the people who helped her without any good reason (or without any good reason to which the reader is privy, which is honestly exactly the same thing). Also, the random challenges and fighting were kind of out of the blue. There were no real stakes and the conflict had note of falsity and emptiness to it, as if it just for the sake of upping the coolness factor. Also, Ryoka somehow went from a character who likes running to an expert kick boxer who, for some reason, thinks beating 5 people at once is easy (which in real life is close to impossible). Ultimately, this chapter has no redeeming qualities, and to be perfectly honest, very little of Ryoka’s entire arc is truly interesting. The simple fact is that we already have a protagonist – Erin. Ryoka unnecessarily distracts from the main character.

    • I’m not sure I understand when people say this was unreadable.

      For me, it took me a bit to see where this was going, and I don’t think it was until the fight with Calruz that it finally clicked with me. However, I think there are two big things that need to be put into perspective here.

      1) She knows the High Passes almost killed her and that she survived purely based on luck and the mage’s “kindness” yet she is getting constantly praised for it. She’s very prideful and she’s getting praised for a stupid decision brought about by her frustration which should have killed her, and I can see that frustrating her since no one is seeing how bad that was.

      2) That mage (Tetriarch?) around 24 hours ago or less, stole her free will. That is massive, especially for someone who values her independence and ability to tell people to screw off as much as Ryoka does. He could have made her do anything, she couldn’t even speak without his permission. That sort of complete loss of control, that could start the ball rolling and it literally just happened. She hasn’t even slept since then as far as I could tell. Add to that someone who looks like people she hated, and a massive dude talking about the weakness of women, I can see each of these snapping her.

      And yeah, a purely logical person or someone with more self-control would have handled this in a far healthier manner. Ryoka is not that character, and I know people who have this sort of emotional time bomb in their heads, so it makes perfect sense to me that she just kept lashing out again and again until she ruined everything.

      • I agree with Chris McDaniel. You, Pirateaba, have did an excellent job writing this litrpg, this is only the second one I have read. Ever chapter is an emotional rollercoaster but never once have I wanted to put it down.
        I am gorging myself on the story, I can’t put it down. Alas, You probably won’t see this comment, but that’s ok. Keep on with the story please.

  18. So, besides what others have said about Ryoka moving from “anger management problems” to “self-destructive and unlikable”, I think there’s also a slight foreshadowing /omniscience problem here and in the previous chapter, with the way things are ordered chronologically.

    In the prior chapter, Ryoka resolves to fight Yvlon, challenge Calruz, and then go to sleep.

    And Calruz just-so-happens to say something where Ryoka feels like challenging him to a fight this chapter, after Ryoka fights Yvlon. This very conveniently lines up with Ryoka’s timeline, making her sound omniscient about the plot.

    Also, earlier in the chapter, Ryoka talks to Garia before the fight with Yvlon:

    Garia: “And she challenged you. To a fight?”

    Ryoka: “Well, a sparring match. I was the one who wanted to turn it into a fight.”

    But it’s only AFTER this conversation that Ryoka turns it into a fight, by telling Yvlon not to remove her armor, including her gauntlets.

    In both cases, it sounds like Ryoka knows what’s going to happen in the plot before it happens, and not because she guides things that way, but because she’s omniscient about the plot.

    Related: If it was going to be a sparring match and not a fight, why hadn’t Yvlon removed her armor earlier, like while Ryoka was doing her extensive warmups? It felt like she was waiting for the plot moment to be told to keep her armor on. This is exacerbated by the reader being explicitly told the warmups took 5 minutes, and Yvlon saying it would only take her 1 minute to remove her armor, so the reader knows Yvlon had more than enough time to have already removed her armor.

    I like the series, obviously, or else I wouldn’t have gotten here, these were just some things that really stuck out in my mind.

  19. People see arrogance and reckless bravado and I see fear and a desperate attempt to take control and assert herself in a world that is constantly hammering her into their desired mold, and winning at it.

    And probably all her life has been that way, constantly lashing out to a system that is trying to squeeze her into a conveniently sized and shaped human McNugget. But her pride won’t let her compromise, not even an inch, because that would be giving them a chance to hurt her even more. And she’s been hurt a lot, in both worlds, but fail to see her actions hurt her more in the long run. Rather, she fails to see that compromising will not necessary lead to her being hurt.

  20. I have to agree with the rest. Ryoka is an unsympathetic character who detracts from the real main character Erin. I’ve never liked her; she feels like a Mary Sue to be honest. Arrogant, unnecessarily edgy, inexplicably gifted, abilities that she never earned falling into her lap, and a host of other issues that allow her to act spoiled with a shitty personality.

    People keep talking about her stress and all that. I don’t know. There’s a lot of people in this world with shitty backstories. That isn’t a good reason to be an asshole.

    Honestly, I hope she dies.

  21. You know, as I’ve been reading this something has been sitting in the back of my mind about Ryoka and and the plot line involving her and the runners guild trying to shut her down and it crystallized for me in this chapter. Likely she would punch me in the face for saying it Ryoka has a certain objectivist bent to her way of thinking, and her fight with the runners guild could almost feel right out of an Ayn Rand novel with her various antagonists in it fitting the archetype of Rands villains fairly well. That all works fine for her in the short term with people who are real assholes. But here, despite her impressive abilities and willingness to alienate the world we see that no matter how strong willed and capable and borderline perfect she seems to be at almost everything we have seen her try that wasn’t a social engagement that no one is an island that lives above others and trying live life that way just doesn’t work and ends with rage and disappointment. Not sure if this is a correct reading or authorial intent or if it’s just me carrying over mental baggage from recently helping a friend break down Rands work for a school thing though.

  22. While I wouldn’t want to be her friend by any stretch i still love her as a character. A broken character sometimes is more interesting then one who is fully whole

  23. What draws me to stories and their protagonists is that in some way, I emphasize with them, or even want to be them.
    I can’t emphasize with Ryoka, and I certainly don’t want to be her. From day one she was an unlikable little shit who was wayyy too good at the things she tried. Including shitting on people.
    She’s the same reason that Dr. House is unrealistic. Not because he’s a genius, but because he got away with being a titanic asshole for way too long.
    That’s not how life works. Social mores and rules are the grease of society.

    If, frankly, I don’t ready any more about her in this story then good ridddance. I honestly do not care about why she got this way. If you’d laid that out before this, then maybe. As it is Ryoka is just a slog to read about.

    Erin is a far more interesting character.

  24. Ryoka’s like… if a deeply unpleasant person somehow made it into this fantasy world and all the people around her can hope is that she doesn’t progress too much or become empowered as much as what usually happens to most main characters like her. Or else it’s to the world’s detriment. But it’s likely she’s going to get more powerful even though she wouldn’t deserve it because of who she is as a person.

  25. Binge reading this right now. Felt like a good chapter to post a comment:

    Positives: I like the way you handle emotion and grief. I like the story.

    Negatives: why are both main characters so fucking dumb? I don’t mean that they should go full Rolland from release that witch, but why would you give the ice cream recipe for free? A bowl costs 60 gold coins, so asking for 1000 gold coins would probably be too cheap. Then there’s Ms Solstice. They told you you get a class if you wish to be something… Why aren’t you training all sorts of skills?

    Overall, this story reminds me of a Portuguese proverb “god gives nuts to the toothless” it’s so frustrating. And nothing good or fun ever happens. I kinda like it when the main characters WIN. Worm is dark as fuck and felt less depressing. At least Taylor, with all her mental problems, still knew exactly what she wanted and was damn good at it. Erin and Ryoka just feel lost and kinda unlikeable. They both have this attitude like they’re better than everyone else. Erin looking down on violence and Ryoka looking down on… Everything.

    I’m going to keep giving this a try, but it feels really frustrating so far.

    • That is an interesting view on Erin. I did not notice that, rather seeing it as the typical aversion to violence and taking lives that most people in our society have. I can easily replace Erin with multiple people I know, and they will react similar. These are people living in one of the top 5 violent crime countries.

      I will look at Erin with new eyes, thanks to you.

      Still more likeable than Ryoka, after this.

  26. I’m listening to the audiobook for the first time and came here after the chapter ended just to calm down and see how people initially reacted to this situation. I must say Andrea Parsenau did a little too good of a job portraying how off-the-handle Ryoka got here. Despite really feeling disappointed in Ryoka as a person, I appreciate that this is a part of a larger character arc and am now looking forward to seeing how she develops from this point and redeems herself. Great writing!

  27. It is obviously too late, but I think you’ve overestimated how strong a human being can get physically. So, Ryoka, with her “brooding, I don’t make friends and I’m a terrible person all-round” archetype is able to outrun things who’d be 4 times faster than the fastest runner in the world. It is obviously too late to throw any improvements at you now, but Ryoka should not be this fast unless levels are just like how we see the development of a person in our world. If not, Ryoka should be weak. And you greatly underestimate how strong medieval knights were.
    From some of the feats you described, a punch from one of the silver ranked adventurers would break ribs and knock people unconscious.

  28. I’m also listening to the audiobook and it literally took me a month to get through this chapter. That whole meltdown scene with Ryoka was too awkwardly painful to listen to for more than a couple minutes at a stretch and didn’t make me feel like coming back and listening again soon. I eventually got through it by coming here and just reading it.

  29. I am going, to be honest, and say I hate Ryoka. The problem I have with her is that she only sees enemies around her and all people are evil and seems no man can be just a good dude. But also that she is perfect in all things she does and does not fail. She needs help all the way but it feels like it is her win and it is not. Erin at least lost things and had a horrible time to just exist. She is not perfect tho. The main problem is that they don’t understand how this world works. For Ryouka it is the adventures. They risk there lives every day and a LOT of them die even with levels and skills and she just shits over them. To me, that was horrible to read but maybe also the point. Erin has a flaw about not accepting violence. I think it fits with her but it is frustrating if she tries to lecture other people about it. I still hope to see them grow in the future but feel like Ryoka needs to learn something like Erin did in the early chapters.

  30. To those who may find this comment.

    I know this chapter is one that makes people hate Ryoka a lot. I understand that. What most people don’t realize is how true to life this is for some with certain mental illness.

    To put it bluntly, Ryoka exhibits many characteristics of someone with BPD (Bi-Polar Disorder). You’ll see this more as you get further and further into the story, but if you’ve ever known someone with it you’ll probably understand. I’m married to someone with it.

    She doesn’t know how to cope or manage her emotions, and in some cases is flat out unable to at all. So the anxiety eats at her, she seems to act irrationally, and angers easily. But read on, do not skip out on the story of one of the most layered and clear representations of someone sufferinf with her mental illness in a world unknown and hostile.

    -Katarina Winters

  31. Ryoka has gone from likeable character, likely the main character’s most significant support, to despicable. That is not to say this is unrealistic. Far from it. Like multiple readers, I find this to be a very realistic description. Though, I have also had some rage issues in the past, it was a lot more limited, even less than most of the readers that spoke up, have experienced.

    What it does remind me of, are quite a few instances of real life, where this is, publicly, a regular occurrence. This line says it all: “You heard what he said about females.” Replace fists with words, and you have the script of basically any FemiNazi debate, though some of those also devolve into physical altercations. Men will always be stronger, women will always be more beautiful. Believing yourself an exception is arrogance.

    To any that would say beauty is less than strength: Hoe many people would rather meet a world renowned artist, actor, singer or composer, rather than the current strongest man in the world?

  32. >“I’m not a team player.”

    As soon as I heard this line, I thought “That’s her limit.” I knew this was coming. Although I didn’t realize it would be nearly this explosive.

    This chapter made me feel deeply sad. I’d mostly understood and really liked Ryoka as a character before this, but the sheer scale of her pride is staggering to me. It’s worse than most dragons. It’s grotesquely ugly, but more than anything, just…sad.

    I’d been hoping that her connection to the Horns of Hammerad would show in character growth in this scene, but it seems the stress and frustration of her situation was too much for her.

    I really understand where she was coming from, and it’s heartbreaking.

    Thanks for writing this story, warts and all, Aba. Because of it, I was able to understand people that I would never have had a chance to get to know otherwise. Hurting people, still so very human.

    >“I’m not a team player.”

    I hope we live to see the day her answer to this question changes. Hopefully, to one better still than the answer Fals found. One of forgiveness, and generosity and friendship that goes beyond gratitude for debts owed. One of appreciation, understanding, fellowship, and real love.


    My favorite character so far is Garia. Just an incredibly humble girl to have such bravery and kindness. And best of all, a bravery that only moves for others. I’d go so far as to say that she’s the most hero-like of all the characters introduced thus far. Well, Klbkch (rest in peace) and Erin are also pretty great.

    • I really do, deeply, hope that Ryoka is able to do something about her pride, though. This is beyond hubris. I don’t think that she’s ever, not even once, looked at another human being as an equal, let alone looked at someone and recognized that there was something beautiful and even admirable about who they were. And it’s crippling her ability for form relationships far more than mere difficulty trusting others or self-destructive anger.

      I think that it’s this bloated, ugly pride that turned off so many readers in this chapter, much more than her anger issues.

  33. Ryoka goes too far, but she’s right about one thing: The Level System *does* handicap the way people in this world think about strength.

    Strength is just given to them if they do certain things enough. It’s like picking up a sword and thinking you’re strong because you’ve got a sword. Or, better yet, picking up a gun and thinking that someone with a sword can’t beat you because you’ll shoot them first.

    But the person with the sword, if they’ve trained their body and mind, can still kill a person with a gun. A person with just their fists can fight against someone with a gun, if they have the training.

    Worse, the level system locks their mindset into a certain path. There are no renaissance men in this world, no polymaths.

    Ryoka isn’t just a Runner, or even a Barefoot Runner, she knows things that could make her a fortune if she weren’t too scrupulous to use them. In this world, she’d have levels in [Historian], [Scholar], [Runner], [Fighter], [Mage], [Alchemist]…

    The Runners and the Adventurers all focus so much on leveling up. Finding that next button to push that gets them another treat from the mysterious level-dispenser, that they never learn to be truly strong. Ryoka showed them that it is possible to be strong even if they were stripped of all their fancy classes and levels.

    Still, she went too far. Did she do it because she’s a rabid dog? I don’t think so. I think it was because she’s never learned to interact with people. She’s a wild animal, untamed. An unbroken stallion.

    Does her pride keep people at a distance? Sure. But the same can be said for Calruz.

    And she does feel hunted by Magnolia: A woman with classes and skills that basically let her dominate anyone in her presence with a word, who knows that Ryoka has secrets, and wants to use those secrets for secret ends. Who tried to extort her when she was so badly injured that nobody else she knew could help, who literally gave her the choice between spilling all her secrets and losing her leg. Who seems to have agents everywhere.

    And Magnolia, with the typical arrogance of the elite, thinks she was being friendly and magnanimous while doing it.

    If Ryoka has one fault, it’s not being able to admit that she needs help. She’s like a carpenter who can build a house without nails using no tools but an ax and a pocket knife, while denying that he could build a better house, or build it quicker, if he used other tools.

    Perhaps a better analogy is that of a programmer who has written large, complex applications with only a text editor and a hand reference, who refuses to use an IDE with code completion, syntax checking and automatic block termination because he thinks those tools are for idiots who don’t want to put forth the effort to actually learn the languages and systems they’re writing for. Maybe he only writes code in assembly language, because he doesn’t want a piece of software optimizing his code for him.

    She’s also forgotten that she owes the Horns a debt. They well repaid her for her delivery in the ruins by getting her to someone who could fix her leg. They also paid a small fortune to have it done, and then healed what was left over.

    She never would have made it to the High Passes without the potions they gave her, even if they were mana potions and not healing potions. Those potions saved her life.

  34. “I—just want to push her face in a bit, don’t you? She’s a bit too beautiful and perfect.”

    Ahahahah, holy shit she is a female incel.

  35. I had the same reaction as some of the other readers in the comments in that i utterly despised ryouka this chapter. The sheer arrogance. Talking about cowardice as if the only reason she survived the high pass wasn’t just luck, i.e. PLOT ARMOR.
    But i’m glad the chapter ended in the way it did. It shows me that the author at least had some semblance of control while this madness was unfolding.

  36. One of the best chapters i’ve read so far. It was very emotional to see how she cut her ties.
    Can’t really say I hate her as I still don’t know about her past and can’t blame her for being mad after all the sh*t she’s been going through, but at this point seems like pure arrogance from genius child.
    Her burst about leveling system was based af tho

  37. This chapter was probably the best i’ve read of The Wandering Inn, so much actually that it made me add my first comment here. I was not really interested in Ryoka’s story the whole time and was just reading it for the sake of having more info about the world and because she might be an important character for Erin later on in the story, but this chapter…

    Ryoka went through such a clusterfuck in this chapter that it made me hate her beyond possible, she was acting like such a bitch at that moment that i wanted her to get beaten so much…- is what i would say if her breakdown wasn’t so real and if i felt no sympathy with what she is goong through! The amount of emotions here made my heart skip a beat and made me extremely interested in how her character will develop from now on. Erin was going through so much physical and mental shit that it was really grim, dark and sad to read, it almost felt like it took away part of my mental health, but for Ryoka who wasn’t really showing it much until she burst in this chapter, it was something special, something new and exciting. In my opinion you’ve really outdone yourself here pirateaba and i just want to read more, thank you so much for giving us such a masterpiece of a story (at least so far).

  38. Okay Ryoka needs to stop running away from her problems like stop breath and think she has anger manage ment problems then Yeah that needs fixing

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