Why would Durandal say something like that? Now I can’t sleep. He promised he wouldn’t abandon me, so everything’s good now, right? Ah, I don’t want to think about it. It looks like Snow can’t sleep either. And Durandal and Bouncykins could never sleep in the first place, so I guess that’s fair. Not! “Hey, Snow.”
Oops. I guess Snow was asleep. “Why do you dress like a girl?”
“Because I’m beautiful.”
…Did he just indirectly call me ugly because I dress in armor like a guy?
“L-Lucia!? You’ll strain your back if you hold your sword like that!”
“Just because you’re beautiful doesn’t mean you have to dress like a girl.”
Snow cleared his throat and backed away, sliding his blanket along the grass. “Well, as you can see, I really look like a girl. So why not accentuate my looks? It throws people off guard and makes them easier to manipulate.”
Manipulate? Oh, right. I almost forgot Snow was the leader of a gang. He really doesn’t act like one. Maybe that was his girly demeanor at work. “You shouldn’t manipulate people. It’s not nice.”
Snow shrugged. “Get some sleep, Lucia. We have a long way to go tomorrow.” He rolled over onto his side and faced away from me.
I can’t. No matter how much I want to sleep, I made a promise to Durandal. Let’s sit in the horse stance together, mini-DalDal. I just wish you were a little less heavy.
“You really should get some rest, Lucia,” Durandal said from his seat by the fire. He was still munching on those poisonous mushrooms. I’m a bit jealous of his stomach. Why can’t I eat whatever I want?
“I’m not tired.” That’s a lie, but I can’t let him down. I’ll just focus on circulating my qi into my arms. How heavy did Durandal say mini-DalDal was? Eight hundred pounds? You’re almost halfway there, Lucia. Once you reach a ton, Durandal will definitely be happier if he can teach actual techniques.
“…Should I increase the weight then?”
Why am I regretting my words already? And I’m going to regret this too. “Yes, but just by a little bit, please.” The next second, my arms nearly fell off my body as mini-DalDal dipped towards the ground. “That’s not a little!”
“Don’t yell,” Durandal said with a smile. It was definitely a sadistic one. Pervert. Demon. “Snow’s trying to sleep.”
If I can’t sleep well, then neither can Snow. …I’m not a petty person. What makes you say that? Hmm. What if, instead of circulating my qi to the parts of me that become sore, I decide to always fill every part of my body with qi constantly? Oh, it works? Will I run out? “Hey, Durandal. Where does qi come from?”
“From your dantian.”
Don’t look at me like that. How the heck am I supposed to know what a dantian is? “I’m serious.”
“It’s a little ball inside of you that’s slightly underneath your belly button.”
My womb? That’s where that’s supposed to be, right? So energy comes from there? Why couldn’t he be more straightforward about it and call it what it is instead of a dantian? “Is it possible to run out of qi?”
“If you’re dead, yes.”
…Maybe I shouldn’t be expending it like this. But it feels so relaxing. “How do I get more of it?”
“There’s some breathing exercises you can do. But somehow, you seem to absorb large amounts of it when you sleep. Some people meditate with those breathing exercises all night instead of sleeping to get half the amount of qi you do.”
Wow. I’m amazing. “That means I should just go to sleep, right?”
“Try sleeping in that horse stance.”
That’s impossible! Who the heck can sleep while standing? A few birds maybe, but I’m a squirrel! Ah, I really wish I was born part crow. Wait. What are you doing? “D-Durandal?”
“Didn’t you say you wouldn’t care how hard you had to work?” Durandal asked with a smile. He slid a few spikes underneath me, propping them up on the ground. “Don’t tell me that was all talk.”
No, no. There’s a difference between what I’m capable of doing and impossible. “But how am I supposed to circulate my qi if I fall asleep!? It’s impossible.”
“It’s only impossible because of that attitude. The Godking could do it.” Durandal smiled and raised his head, staring at the sky and away from my plight.
I’m not the Godking! But at least I know it’s possible. Then I could at least try, yeah? Durandal’s right—my attitude is holding me back. Believe in yourself, Lucia. “I’ll do it!” …How does this work? “Uh, do I just try to fall asleep now?”
“She’s going to turn into a pincushion, you stupid sword spirit,” Bouncykins said. When did he get here? Did he want to watch my suffering too?
“Wow, Lucia,” Snow said while sitting up. “You’re very serious about your training. I was a little jealous of you since you had Durandal, but now I think I’m the lucky one.”
Don’t snicker at my suffering. I’ll smack you. I really will. Wait, what was that bit about being jealous? Wasn’t he supposed to be a trusted ally? He wouldn’t backstab me in the future, would he? Now that I think about it, Durandal is manipulating Snow a teensy bit. It would make sense for him to be bitter, no? Plus, he’s a gang leader with no morals…. This just gets worse and worse! I’ll have to keep my eye on him; who knows what he’ll do? “G-go back to sleep, Snow.”
“She’s trembling so hard that she’s starting to stutter,” Bouncykins said to Durandal as he also snacked on the poisonous mushrooms. “Are you sure she’ll be alright?”
I’ll be fine! This much is nothing. All I have to do is maintain vigilance and keep up this qi output until the night’s over. Who needs sleep? I’d rather have a non-pincushioned body than a good night’s rest. Wait. Why did I need to sleep again? To replenish … my … qi. Ah, I feel dizzy. When did my arms become so heavy? Please stay standing, body! My chastity depends on it.
And I fainted.
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