Fedoras are the coolest hats in existence.
Wearing one can instantly turn you into someone classy, someone to be respected. Whether it’s paired with a tie-dyed shirt and jeans or a full tuxedo, the effects are devastating.
It also happens to be the best hat a gentleman could ever possibly wear. Ah, you say the gentleman’s hat is actually the top hat? Don’t be ridiculous. Top hats serve no purpose but for causing uncontrollable laughter. I’d rather stack a multitude of fedoras on my head than wear such a travesty.
Bowler hats, being a close cousin to the fedora, are still a good choice. While not as dazzling as a proper fedora, its rounded shape gives it a more refined, calm air as opposed to a fedora’s rakish, standout characteristics.
And for those who feel a particular attachment to the western States, there is the Stetson, something like the fedora’s long-lost twice-removed cousin. I’ve never worn one myself, so I can’t say much about its usefulness, but I’m sure people have their reasons to wear them.
Am I a hat maniac? Most certainly! Hats are wonderful things. They hide greasy locks of hair, protect tender bald scalps from the harsh rays of the sun, and provide shade thanks to their brims. My entire life was devoted to hats, and my house contained no less than fifteen hat racks, all laden with my collection of various hats from around the world, from the Russian ushanka to the ubiquitous straw hat. I ran a hat shop, where I sold a variety of different hats. Shipments would come in from various hat factories, and I would convince customers to hand over some of their hard-earned money to buy a piece of clothing that functioned both as a fashion statement and as a useful tool.
Why am I using past tense to describe my life?
That’s because I died.
It was a tube- sorry, subway- derailment. I, dressed in a smart business suit and a black fedora, with a briefcase in my right hand, was waiting for the train that would take me home after a long and exhausting day of work. Who’d have guessed that the train I was waiting for would be the one to kill me?
In my last moments, bleeding out under a pile of concrete and rebar and twisted steel, I protected the fedora to the best of my abilities, not letting it slip from my hands even as my eyes closed for the last time.
But wait, there’s more!
Damn, that line never gets old. May you swindle crowds of unassuming angels in heaven browsing the Christian Shopping Channel, Billy Mays.
After my death, I was greeted by an old man sitting in a comfortable armchair while puffing on a lacquered wooden pipe. The first thing I noticed was his hat.
At that moment, a strange feeling bloomed inside my heart. It was the first time I’d come across one of my kin, one of those who wore fedoras in daily life.
The second thing I noticed was that I was no longer bleeding from various wounds on my body, and that I was also standing up, as though nothing had happened. My surrou dings, too, had changed- no longer could I see nothing but grey dust and concrete. Instead, my eyes were graced with what seemed to be a lavishly furnished parlor, with a fire crackling merrily in the hearth.
It wasn’t a question that issued from the old man’s mouth. It was a statement.
Jonathan Brooks- that’s me. A 35-year-old London resident known for having a hat fetish.
I nervously adjusted my tie. Why was I here?
“You are dead.”
“Yeah, I think I am. But what is this place? Limbo? Purgatory? A last hallucination before my brain ceases to function?”
Though I might look unassuming and plain, I have a doctorate. Medical school, baby! Yeah! Why’s a medical school graduate selling hats? Long story. Really, really long. Partly because I would have to include a detailed explanation on employment rates and economy and whatnot, and partly because I’m of the longwinded sort.
“Your first two guesses were correct.”
Said the mysterious old man, tapping his pipe with wizened fingers that looked like some sort of yellowed paper had been stretched over his bones.
“Do you know who I am, Mr. Brooks?”
I didn’t really know anyone outside of my immediate family, and this man was no exception.
“It’s a pity how far humanity has fallen, even with occasional bastions of safety like you…”
“Mr. Brooks, I am the god of Hats.”
“You’re awfully nonchalant about being introduced to a god.”
“I’m quite surprised, really. It’s just that I kind of figured it out already.”
“Oh, really? How?”
“This room contains more hats than I’ve ever seen.”
It seemed that for a god, hat racks were unnecessary. Instead, hats floated in midair, gently bobbing to some nonexistent wind.
“Plus, the floating hats are kind of a dead giveaway, no pun intended. Nice collection, by the way.”
One rule of thumb regarding hat collections is: never touch a hat from another man’s collection without receiving explicit permission. Which is why I merely observed with my eyes, even though I had the urge to throw caution to the winds and cram as many different hats as I could on my head.
“Ah. It’s my first time inviting a mortal into my domain, so pardon me if you see something out of your common sense.”
“I don’t particularly mind floating hats. In fact, I think that’s pretty neat.”
“Thank you. Anyway!”
The god cleared his throat sharply.
“As a reward for so devoutly following the path of the headpiece for your entire life, you will be sent into another world as my apostle. Do you have any objections?”
My mouth dropped open.
“I’m fine with the other world bit, but me? Your apostle? Are you sure I’m qualified for this?”
The god smiled.
“The fact that you love hats so much is quite enough. Plus, I will be granting you a little gift to help you on your way. Please, hand me your fedora, would you?”
I looked at his outstretched hand dubiously. The fedora was the finest hat in my collection- the outside was glossy black silk, with an inside made of felt. It had been made by Antonio Giuseppe, one of the greatest hatmakers of the twentieth century, and had cost a year’s salary for me to obtain.
“You’re not going to harm it?”
“Oh, please. I’m the god of hats. I love hats even more than you do! I could never bring myself to hurt them.”
I reluctantly took the fedora from my head and placed it on his palm. The god of hats closed his eyes, and the fedora glowed with a faint golden light which disappeared as the god reopened his eyes.
I took the fedora back, turning it around in my hands.
“It doesn’t seem any different.”
“The changes might not be immediately visible, but they’re there all right. I wish I could just enhance you directly, but as my domain rules over hats I can’t exactly go around modifying human souls.
“This fedora- fine work, even for my standards- is now indestructible and self-cleaning. I wanted to take that much off your mind. But those are just the minor changes! Now, I can’t give you too much or the other gods will be in a tizzy, but I did sneak in a couple of cool features. Put it on your head.”
I did as he instructed, and he pointed to the brim of the fedora.
“Now, think the word ‘hide’. Then take a look at yourself in the mirror over there.”
I walked in front of a floor-to-ceiling mirror obviously used to model for hats, and gasped. I wasn’t visible on the mirror, although I could see myself just fine. The god chuckled at my astonishment.
“Do you like it?”
“Y-yes! A lot!”
Despite being 35, I felt like I was a schoolboy again.
“To undo the invisibility, just grab the brim and think ‘show’. Simple enough.”
“Um, I have a question.”
“This fedora is indestructible, right? What if I want to modify it?”
“Modify it how?”
“Like if I wanted to make it bulletproof by putting a thin layer of metal inside. Judging from the way you’re acting, the world I’m being sent to is quite dangerous, right?”
“A fair point. Tell me what you want modified, and I’ll do it for you before you leave.”
“Really? Thanks. I want a layer of metal inside the brim, light enough not to hinder movement but strong enough to block projectiles.”
“But the hat is already indestructible?”
“Think of it like wearing armor. If, say, you throw a rock at an unbreakable, pliant membrane that has a vase behind it, if you throw hard enough the vase will receive an impact from the rock. If it’s a rigid membrane- like metal- that wouldn’t happen.”
“I didn’t think of that. I understand that I am woefully lacking in seeing things from a mortal’s viewpoint.”
The god waved his hand.
“It doesn’t feel any heavier, though?”
“That’s because I used a very unique metal. Where you’re going, it’s called godmetal. A fitting name for a metal bestowed upon mortals by gods. Indestructible, practically weightless. Aerospace engineers from Earth would drool over it like kids over Christmas turkey.”
I nodded, before I did a double take, realizing what he had just said.
“You know what Christmas and aerospace engineers are?”
“I know everything about Earth. After all, I was able to pull you from that world after your death, no?”
“Now it seems rather obvious. I’ll just sit over here and put a foot in my mouth.”
I said with a chagrined expression on my face.
“The next modification is a change to its aerodynamics. Though I can’t completely ignore physics, I can still bend the laws a little. The fedora will be treated like a perfectly weighted frisbee.”
Though it seemed like a rather frivolous use of godly power, I refrained from speaking my mind. Then I realized a god would probably be able to read my thoughts anyway.
“And for what purpose?”
“To look cool. Think about it! You could throw your hat and have it come back to you and land on your head! Romance!”
“I admit that does sound pretty damn awesome. Can I ask one last question before I go?”
“Why do you need an apostle in that world?”
“That world is one that is a travesty in terms of hat-related culture. The only things they wear on their heads are hoods, headbands and crowns! Can you imagine that? That’s why you must show them the greatness of proper hats!”
I said, sounding rather unnaturally vigorous due to overenthusiasm. Being an apostle of the hat god? Hell yeah! Couldn’t be any worse than being a hat salesman.
“Then go! Teach your wisdom to the unknowing masses!”
With that shout, I felt myself slowly fading away, becoming more indistinct, before I couldn’t feel my own limbs and my vision turned black.
That was the start of an adventure that would have more consequences than I expected.
I sigh as I pull myself out of my memories. Now that I’ve grown to a ripe old age in this world- Rithen- I have nothing left to do. I had revolutionized everything from hats to industry during my time here, and I am hailed as a great hero. It also helps that I’m absolutely loaded thanks to my myriad business ventures, most of which were profitable.
Now that I’ve reached the old age of 85, everything is a chore. Getting up in the morning, making breakfast, skimming through reports with morning tea- none of it holds any enjoyment for me.
Would anyone miss me after my death? Yes, millions would. But would anyone miss me the way they would miss a beloved family member? No. I led a mostly solitary life, and though I have some good friends, I never formed any intimate relationships. Thinking back on it, I realize that maybe it was a mistake.
My hands start shaking, jostling the fragrant herb tea in my cup. What am I so afraid of? It’s quite obvious.
I’m afraid of being forgotten.
I’m afraid that the fifty years I’ve spent in this world will go to waste, that it’ll regress to the pitifully medieval state I found it in.
But even more than that, I’m afraid of people no longer thinking of my name and attributing it to a man who singlehandedly changed the world. Even if it was rather undeserved, I thoroughly enjoyed feeling like a real hero.
That’s not to say I can’t fight. No sir. In a world previously as harsh and unforgiving as Rithen, if you couldn’t fight you died. Thanks to my incredible fedora, I managed to survive unscathed. Afterwards, I created a whole school of fighting involving the use of metal-plated hats.
The problem lies not with physical strength, but with magic. As you may have guessed, this world is very much like the ones from classic fantasy novels from Earth. It has a variety of incredible, imagination-defying creatures, and every vista is a feast for the eyes. It is thanks to magic that I was able to recreate Earth’s technology so quickly on this planet.
I rely on magic for everything. I trust that it will never suddenly disappear, that magical items will never lose their enchantment.
For someone so dependant on magic, I suppose it’s a supreme form of irony that I am incapable of using any myself.
It’s understandable- Earth never had any magic, and thus my body simply cannot handle channeling mana- the basic unit of magical energy- and thus made any sort of spellcasting impossible for me. An expected result, but nonetheless very disappointing.
I lean back in my chair and gaze up at the ceiling. The hat god hasn’t contacted me since he sent me to this world. Maybe he’ll be there once I die here. No idea.
Well, it’ll be soon. I can feel my body slowly shutting down. With the passage of every month my limbs feel just a bit heavier, my mind feels just a little slower.
I sip the tea, enjoying its rich fragrance. This tea, much like myself, is a commodity. Limited, expensive, and useful. Sometimes I wonder if that’s all the people of this world think of me. A convenient Swiss army knife with more attachments than can be counted.
Another sip. The tea is soothing, and my creaking joints are grateful.
Sip. I feel as though I could go to sleep at any moment.
I put down the cup and close my eyes.
On this day, the well-respected businessman Jonathan Brooks, age 85, disappeared without a trace on the 50th anniversary of his arrival in Rithen.
“Oh. It’s you again.”
The god of hats raises his bushy white eyebrows at that.
“Your tone is awfully insolent for someone who’s adressing a god.”
“Sorry. Being 85 means I consider 90% of everyone I meet to be beneath me. Turns into a habit.”
“So, am I dead again?”
“No. This time, the circumstances are rather peculiar.”
The god checks the bowl of his pipe, and refills it with tobacco.
“Peculiar? In what way?”
“Well, you were forcibly dragged from Rithen into another world that has discovered how to summon human beings from across dimensions.”
“Really? Why would they need to summon someone, though?”
“They were in dire need of a hero to save them. And so they summoned a group of individuals, mostly from Earth, to help them.”
“A group from Earth, huh. How nostalgic.”
“Still doesn’t explain why you wanted to talk to me, though.”
“I just wanted to prepare you for landing in that world. Being 85 in a world that desperately needs fighters is… Not a good idea.”
“I’ve gotten permission to reverse your aging. You will arrive as a 35-year old man- just like the first time we met.”
I mutter. To tell the truth, I’m kind of miffed by these summoners who kidnapped people to do their dirty work for them, but now that I’m caught up in this situation, what can I do but go with the flow?
“What’s that world like?”
“Think of it as Rithen, before you arrived.”
“Oof. Wouldn’t want to end up in a world like that without prior experience, that’s for sure. Do you have a task for me this time?”
“No. I don’t. Spread hats if you want, but this time you’re free to do whatever you want. Think of it as a reward for doing a good job on Rithen.”
A lifelong vacation on a hostile planet as a reward for being the employee of the century. Great place to work at.
“And tone down the sarcasm, will you? It’s unbecoming for an English gentleman.”
I quirk my eyebrows as I adjust my hat.
“All gentlemen are rotten at the core, you know? We just put up a godsteel-hard shell that seems ‘gentle’.”
“If you say so. Any last questions?”
“Do I get to take whatever I was carrying with me?”
“That’s good. Bye, then. See you next death.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Brooks.”
Being summoned is distinctly unlike being reincarnated. When I was reincarnated, I simply… Faded into existence. This time, I feel like I’m a fish caught on a hook, the tightly-wound line dragging me to the fisherman.
With a jolt, my feet land on solid ground, and I open my eyes to see a very evil cult-like room, covered with arcane scribbles and formations, in the largest of which I’m standing right now.
I look around, searching for the other summoned people. Around me are six people- five who are obviously from Earth, judging from their synthetic clothing, and a sixth who is… Not.
The five are fairly average teenagers. From their faces and black hair, I assume they’re all Asian. They’re all looking around, confused, while wiping their eyes.
The sixth is a woman. Not very tall, only about 5 feet- and that’s a generous estimate- and her most striking feature is her ears. Instead of two round, fleshy ears attached to the sides of her head, she has two furry, pointed ones at the top instead. Cat? No, fox? Her tail is hidden by her clothing, so I can’t tell, but she’a obviously got one.
Beastkin. Humans with some beast-like features, thought to be mutations caused by mana. In Rithen, there were plenty of beastkin, who, due to their higher physical strength compared to humans, were treated as a superior race- that is, until I came along, and vigorously convinced everyone that all races are equal.
What interests me more than her ears, though, are her clothes. They’re not the typical badly made clothing a medieval peasant would wear- they’re very modern. Not synthetic fabric, but obviously made through some sort of mass production.
She turns her head to look at me, and our eyes meet. Hers widen, and she gasps.
“Lord Brooks! Where is this place? What are you doing here?”
I motion for her to be quiet, but the damage has been done. The other summoned are turning to stare at us, and the OTHER people- the bastards who summoned us- are taking notice as well.
The fact that two of the summoned are from Rithen, and five are from Earth makes me… Worried. Could it be they only summon from world with a certain amount of scientific innovation? It’s arrogant to think Earth and Rithen are the only two worlds to have advanced in technology, though.
One of the summoned, a boy wearing what looks to be a school uniform, opens his mouth, but is interrupted by the appearance of someone who is obviously a king. Ah, so the summoning was the effort of a nation, not something done independently. Information to file away for later.
“Welcome, heroes! You have been summoned from your respective worlds into ours in a time of great need.”
As the king speaks, I notice a glowing character floating in front of him. I immediately recognize it as a rune- one of translation. I feel relieved that the magic of this world seems identical to that of Rithen.
“The Demon King, a truly despicable being who rules over monsters, has been attempting to wipe out the human race. We need your help to defeat him, and restore peace to this world.”
A cliche development. Even in Rithen, after the fact that I was from another world leaked out, novels about being sent to other worlds became massively popular.
“So! Heroes, could you please introduce yourselves?”
The first to step up is the boy from earlier.
“I’m Sakaki Ryouta, and I’m a high schooler.”
“And your age?”
The king prompts.
“What manner of occupation is a ‘hai skurer’?”
“Um… I’m a student.”
“I see. Next!”
The second is a girl, wearing a school uniform of the same design as the first.
“Tetsuya Hinako. 17. High schooler. How do we know that this is really another world? For all we know, you’ve staged some elaborate kidnapping plan and used that speech from earlier to make us lower our guard.”
A balding man in a robe steps forward- the typical intellectual character. He opens his palm, and begins to recite a chant.
“Red flames coalesce, burn my enemy! Fireball!”
A floating ball of red appears over Alexander’s hand. The five from Earth are astonished, wearing slack-jawed expressions, while I keep a mask of studious disinterest. The fox is fidgeting in place nervously, occasionally sneaking glances towards me.
After that, the summoned are far more willing to introduce themselves.
“Sakaki Yuuki, 16, high schooler.”
“Son Woo-bin, 21, gamer.”
“Zhongye Li, 24, office worker.”
And finally, my turn.
“Jonathan Brooks, 35, entrepreneur.”
I shake my head imperceptibly as the fox-woman tries to say something. I’ll explain it to her later.
“Right! Now that you’ve introduced yourselves-”
“You forgot her.”
Says Ryouta, pointing at the fox-woman.
“What use do we have for a- fine. Go on.”
The king sneers. Ah, a human supremacist nation. Good luck, and fuck you.
“F-felmina Strade, 23, m-mage.”
The king’s sneer frows even more pronounced as I struggle to wrap my head around the fact that this diminutive woman is 23.
“You lie, wretch. Beastkin cannot use magic.”
So this world’s beastkin are significantly different from those on Rithen. Hm.
Felmina begins to panic, and I whisper to her out of the corner of my mouth.
And so Felmina snaps her fingers and collects the flames from every torch in the room- very rustic means of lighting- into a single massive ball in front of her, before returning it to its sources. The king’s mouth, and practically everyone else’s all hang open. I give myself a mental high-five as I savor the feeling of having one-upped an annoying customer.
Judging from her talent in fire magic, I realize Felmina is of desert fox descent. The desert fox tribes used to be a nomadic tribal society that lived in a desert, barely getting by every day. After I came, I had artificial oases constructed to aid them, which was kind of useless since most of them migrated to the cities after seeing my positive influence.
Since the king seems to be dazed, I clear my throat loudly.
“Ah-ah, yes. Now that you’ve all introduced yourselves, please take some time to get to know each other while we escort you to your lodgings.”
The king and his people have a slight bit of fear in their eyes. Could it be voiceless casting isn’t very common in this world? Oh, I’m going to have so much fun- ahem, I mean that I’m going to help Felmina have a lot of fun tormenting these poor bastards.
“So, where are you all from? Me, Hinako and Yuuki are all from the Totori prefecture in Japan.”
Asks the boy. Ryouta. Right. It’s already pretty obvious where everyone is from, in terms of country, at least. By everyone, I’m excluding myself and Felmina.
I remain quiet.
“Er, what about you, mister?”
Should I tell them I’m not from Earth, or should I tell them I’m from London? They’re going to notice that I’m somewhat acquainted with Felmina, who is obviously not an Earthling. Oh, whatever.
“Cool! So you’re the only European in our little group.”
And now the attention’s focused on Felmina. Poor her.
“Are you even from Earth?”
“Erm… No? Earth… That’s the world that the stories-”
I cut off her sentence by clapping my hand over her mouth. Sue me for being rude, but I don’t want them to know that Rithen has been influenced by someone from Earth.
“Hey, let go of her!”
Woo-bin angrily shouts, followed by glares from everyone else.
“Look, this is personal business, alright? So please, don’t butt in.”
“It’s best not to reveal I’ve been in Rithen, at least for now. Understand?”
The last part is whispered to Felmina, who nods in response. The glares persist. I’m sure they’re all thinking of me as some suspicious old man by now.
“As for why I’m 35, it seems that I became younger by 50 years as a side effect of being summoned.”
It’s not a lie. I just left out the fact that I conversed with the god of hats.
“I see, my lord-”
“And don’t address me as lord here. Just call me Jonathan.”
“I can’t do that! You are a hero-”
“Only on Rithen. Not here. Here, I’m just a middle-aged man.”
It must be hard calling someone who’s been your idol since birth by his first name. Unfortunately for her, it’s not my problem.
“Hey, what are you two trying to hide from us?”
Return of the suspicious glares.
“Nothing you need to know. Right, Felmina?”
And yet the glares don’t stop.
“Ms. Felmina, is he blackmailing you or something like that?”
“N-no! Jonathan would never do something like that!”
And our cover is blown. And then then sucked. Repeatedly. How nervous can you even get? Felmina realizes what she’s done in the next moment, and claps her hands over her mouth. It’s too goddamn late for that!
“Mr. Jonathan, are you telling the truth when you say you’re from London?”
I match Hinako’s gaze with my own.
“Then how do you know Felmina?”
“That’s not for you to know.”
Denial is the best shield. Well, second-best, since my hat exists.
The hostile gazes can practically be felt, but I don’t care. In the first place, I’ve lived longer on Rithen than I have on Earth. I don’t even really think of Earth as ‘my planet’ anymore. Secondly, nobody said us summoned heroes had to work together. So what if there’s a little bit of discord?
Our ‘lodgings’ are located quite close to each other. Each of us get an entire room, with basic furnishings. I’m perfectly fine with these accomodations, even if I regret the lack of tea. Perhaps I can ask for some.
I lie down on the bed, still fully clothed. It’s pleasantly springy, and I smile. Why am I lying down without getting undressed? That’s because my clothes are all ludicrously expensive. The long trench coat-like suit I’m wearing is almost as strong as my fedora, though it is still not indestructible. The shirt I wear underneath is made of the finest strands of arachne- humanoid spider-monsters- silk, and designed for comfort. Same with my underwear and pants. My shoes are made from dragon leather, which means they could survive even a walk through molten lava. To top it all off the entire ensemble is self-cleaning and is also enchanted to be light. I never even have to change out of it, since it’s perfectly acceptable formal wear.
I take off the fedora and place it on my chest, looking at it affectionately. I mentioned the invisibility effect the god placed on it. Afterwards, I had enchanters place even more useful functions on it. For instance, it has its own dimensional pocket attached. It’s not very big, but it’s big enough for all of my usual needs. Plus, it makes a handy aid for magic tricks. Even in a world with real magic, people can’t get enough of those cheap tricks. In a sense, my fedora is equivalent to my bag of tricks.
I hear knocking on the door, and I sit up.
It’s Felmina, as expected. She stands in front of me, shuffling from side to side.
“Sit down, won’t you?”
I pat the bed next to me, and she mumbles about how it would be rude for her to sit in my presence.
“Oh, just sit down, will you? It’s uncomfortable for me if I’m the only one sitting. And stop being so nervous around me! That’s an order! I’m just an ordinary man who happened to know a lot! Not some hero.”
And then I scratch my head as I think.
“Well, now I might be a hero, but never mind that. What did you want to talk about?”
“Uh… Do you know anything about this world, my l- Jonathan?”
“I know it’s almost the same as Rithen before I came. I don’t know anything else, though.”
“I see, that’s a shame. What is this ‘London’ you said you were from?”
“It’s a city back on Earth. Would you believe it if I said I made a living selling hats?”
She chuckles at that.
“Yes, I would. You’re known as the ‘Mad Hatter’ in some circles, after all.”
That is partly my fault. After I introduced Earth stories to Rithen, someone noticed the similarities between the Mad Hatter from Alice Through The Looking Glass. I don’t deny that it’s a nickname I don’t mind. No, not at all.
I hear a muffled voice from outside.
“Come out, heroes! The king has requested your presence in the training grounds for an evaluation.”
I rise from the bed, and walk to the door, Felmina following closely behind.
The summoned gather around the man who had been sent to fetch us. And, judging from the looks on their faces, they’re none too happy about it. I suppose a normal person on Earth wouldn’t be expected to fight, and therefore they don’t have any actual combat experience. Here, at least, is a field where I can excel.
“Oi! What were you doing in that room with her?”
God of fucking hats. Here we have exhibit A of the white knight protagonist.
“What I do is none of your business, brat.”
“Don’t call me a brat, creepy old man?”
“What, you want me to call you a girl?”
“Then shut up.”
I don’t like causing hostilities. I’m being completely honest. I wouldn’t dare lie about something so serious. Totally.
If anyone asks, it’s that kid’s fault for messing around. This is reality, not some shitty book where the protagonist always wins. Besides, I doubt any of the other summoned would be able to kill me, even if they grouped up.
The training grounds were cleared out, presumably for our exclusive use. We got pit against a swordsman, presumably of reasonable strength. Yep, he’s definitely strong. Fancy armor, check. Fancy sword, check. Handlebar mustache, check. Crossed arms, check.
“Get a sword from the rack over there, and step in front of me, one at a time. I will judge what kind of training you need.”
Oh, I’ll have fun watching the other ones getting their asses kicked.
Stern-looking commander guy vs. Ryouta. (He refuses to tell us his name. I assume if we manage to beat him, he’ll tell us.)
Ryouta runs at him and clumsily swings the sword at him. Terrible form. Looks like he’s trying to throw a bucket of water at the commander instead of swinging a sword at him. Commander doesn’t even bother drawing his sword. Dodges, grabs Ryouta, throws him. Ryouta lies there, stunned. Commander snorts disdainfully and motions for the next person to step up.
Stern-looking commander guy vs. Woo-bin.
Woo-bin can’t even hold the sword up at waist level. Same treatment as Ryouta. Two bodies laying side-by-side on the ground behind the commander.
Stern-looking commander guy vs. Yuuki.
Aha. A brocon. So they were real. Enraged at the treatment of her brother. Wild swings. Commander finally unsheathes his sword. Calmly deflects every swing and bonks her on the head with the hilt. Another one bites the dust.
Stern-looking commander guy vs. Hinako.
Oh? Proper posture, at the very least. Kendo expertise? Probably. Commander seems impressed that even one of us has some sort of knowledge of combat. Hinako quickly runs forward. Trades a couple of blows with the commander. In the end Hinako’s sword is flung aside and commander’s sword is held at her neck. Defeat.
Stern-looking commander guy vs. Yi.
Martial arts, as expected of a Chinese guy. Thank you, god of stereotypes! Commander decides he wants to try fighting Yi in hand-to-hand combat. Commander is the one that rushes first, this time. Yi utilizes something that looks like aikido. Rather impressive. But obviously not a professional martial artist. Commander spins, elbows him in the gut. And then a quick punch to the chin and Yi falls to the ground.
Stern-looking commander guy vs. Me.
Like Yi, I forgo taking a weapon. After all, my best weapon is on my head. I calmly walk towards the commander. He notices that I have a sort of self-assured walk that can only be acquired through years of experience. He stays wary. He doesn’t underestimate me for being middle-aged. We stand in front of each other, barely a meter from each other. Don’t need to show off entire power. Just enough to make the commander acknowledge I don’t need training. Commander opens with a punch to gauge my defenses. I slip into zone. Fist looks like it’s not moving at all. Step forward. Precise strike to neck. Allow previous punch to reach my shoulder. Can’t hurt me anyway. Zone ends, commander collapses. I crouch down and slap his face a couple of times. He wakes up, looks astonished someone beat him. I walk away, smirking internally.
Now that my adrenaline’s worn off, my thoughts become much more ordered. Hopefully I’ll be able to analyze Felmina’s fight properly.
Stern-looking commander guy vs. Felmina.
Felmina stands there, sword in hand, trembling. She has at least a minimum of training. She’s holding the sword properly. But she can’t take initiative. Commander rushes forward and swings. Felmina barely deflects. Swings keep coming until Felmina falls backward, sword at her throat.
The commander turns to look at me. His expression is unreadable. Is he mad I beat him? To be honest, though, I think he’s pretty weak. Perhaps at the level of an experienced recruit of any of the nations on Rithen. He beckons me forward, and I comply. He keeps staring at me. Perhaps I should insert a quip?
“If you keep staring at me, I’ll start thinking you’re in love with me.”
Now he looks pissed. Well, it’s not like he can actually do anything to me, but…
Ah. He’s turned back to the downed bodies. He picked them all up and slung them over his shoulder. Pretty good strength, I see. He walks back to the castle, and I follow him. He’ll probably report to the king on how we did. I hope he puts in a good word for me. Even if I did insult him. Oops.