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Orphan Reborn

3

The Sword can Only Offer Two Choices

10

Natalie was told by Largo and Jaori to sleep well tonight. She needed more energy for more training, they said. So she decided to go to her quarters, not minding the other trainees’ demeaning looks along the pathwalk.

 

She remembered the quarters well. They already looked old and they had veins crawling all over the walls. There were cracks on the paint and trees were already towering over the rooms.

 

The corporation has not repaired them yet because it was unnecessary. It also contributed to the trainees' well-being since it brought them closer to nature and forced them to be comfortable in non-desirable sleeping situations.

 

Which also made them more patient and lenient. This was important to them because a hot tempered asset was never productive.

 

Because she was adopted, the corporation constructed a separate room for her. It looked new compared to the rest of the buildings.

 

It was at least a mile away from the quarters of other trainees but closer to the administration offices. She both loved it and hated it.

 

Loved it because at least she doesn’t have to deal with other trainees. Hated it because she felt alone and alienated.

 

“I can’t go to my quarters just yet,” Natalie said. “I need to gather more information about my situation. I can barely remember what happened four years ago in my time.”

 

So instead of going back to her lone quarter, Natalie went straight to the meditation area. She had to pass by the quarters so it was ideal. She gets to examine more about the trainees and also the trainers that were checking on their skills and development.

 

Maybe she can even ask questions about the present day since she was just reincarnated.

 

Natalie stood in front of the trainee’s quarters observing their activities.

 

Some were still training on their own using breathing exercises. Some were on the roof meditating or training their balance and sword slashing sequences.

 

Some trainees were climbing trees then jumping off a branch, repeating this action over and over, to practice their acrobatic skills.

 

While some were in the hot baths enjoying the evening and some who were just looking at the stars.

 

They were all teenagers after all.

 

Trainers never really cared if these teenage trainees slept or not. Most trainers had the ideal that assets trained under the corporation were more of a weapon, a product to generate income.

 

Trainers were paid top dollar for their work and most of them did not want to act as a parent to the trainees. So far, only Largo and Jaori were one one of the few ‘soft-hearted’ trainers.

 

“What are you doing peeking at us?” One of the trainees noticed Natalie observing them. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

 

“She’s just trying to examine our techniques and copy them,” added one of the boys. “Very lazy and without honor.”

 

“Scram! You barely won your last duel. What makes you think we would want you here?” another boy added. “Learn your own sword techniques, bitch.”

 

“I just want to know how dull your strategies are. Now I know,” Natalie tried to tease them. “You can’t defeat me in a free-for-all anyway.”

 

One of the boys that insulted her earlier challenged her to a duel. Natalie can barely remember any boy in the corporation. Before and after reincarnation. They were all the same to her. They just wanted to beat each other up head to head without using too much strategy.

 

“Hey, you. No duels until the morning. Take a rest,” one of the trainers shouted from a distance.

 

“Listen to your daddies, numskulls.” Natalie teased.

 

The boys stayed away from Natalie. One of them spit on the ground to show disrespect to her.

 

Natalie knew that she had to control her habit of picking fights. Maybe she can just limit it to trash talks alone.

 

Seeing that there was nothing odd happening in the quarters, Natalie went to the meditation area to look for more clues about her murder.

 

There were a couple of trainees that were lost in their meditation and barely noticed Natalie walking around the open field.

 

“This is where I was killed,” Natalie looked at the very ground where she lost her life. She pulled the kabuki mask and looked at it, examining it further. “This boy killed me in this spot.”

 

Natalie wanted to sit down but because of her traumatic experience in the very same place, she had trouble doing so.

 

“Ok, one bullet on each thigh, that would render my agility skills useless. Very crafty,” Natalie whispered to herself. “He also planned that it was going to be in this area, since we are not allowed to bring our training tools here.”

 

Natalie paced back and forth and tried to think of a trainee that would kill her.

 

“That’s stupid. All trainees here would want to kill me,” Natalie whispered. “But he did mention something about the benefit of killing me. What would that be?”

 

She listed all of the possible factors in her mind that can lead to her murder:

  1. She was an outcast. Adopted by the founder. Maybe someone is jealous of her. Maybe even jealous of how Jaori and Largo treated her. Jealousy can be a motivation, she thought.
  2. Her methods in combat were unorthodox that’s why she kept on winning in duels with the most points to the victor: free-for-alls. Since gaining points will affect one's future in the corporation, cutting down the competition would make sense.
  3. Lastly, she was a disgrace to the brotherhood. It can’t be helped that the trainees were all male. Their fanaticism was a force to be reckoned with. Someone like Natalie was a threat to their ideals, so it would also make sense to keep her out for good.

But these were all extreme notions, Natalie thought. It’s still unhelpful to think of it that way because these reasons were already there from the start. For a decade, these motivations were already existing.

 

Why wait for that long to kill her?

 

Maybe because procuring real weapons took a lot of time. Maybe that’s the reason why her killer waited.

 

Natalie had no idea where the real weapons in the corporation were located. Even trainers don’t carry real weapons.

 

Maybe the killer had help from the inside? Maybe it was a collaboration?

 

With all this in mind, Natalie heaved a sigh. It was not going to be easy finding her murderer, especially when she had to think about other trainees, trainers, or even someone from the administration that corroborated with the killer.

 

Natalie suddenly felt hungry. She knew she still had a lot of time to think about her murder but things might change along the way. Doesn’t mean she already knows what’s going to happen, all of it will happen the same way in time.

 

She has to stay alert.

 

A week went by and Natalie continued her life in the corporation as usual. She has not told anyone about her reincarnation yet or that she was from the future.

 

She never really knew how to deal with it at first but over time, she has learned how to keep a leveled head.

 

She was fourteen again and there were a lot of things in her mind to think about.

 

Natalie considered all the knowledge four years into the future as an edge for future activities in the corporation. Plus, she will also take advantage of it to find her killer.

 

But in order to operate smoothly, she must be able to maintain her character. She doesn’t want to look suspicious and that includes acting more mature than her appearance.

 

First, how to act like a fourteen year old. It was easy but she had to constantly do it every now and then. Nuisances like not being able to talk during class or pretending to miss some of her shots in the gun range, was something that she found too annoying sometimes.

 

Second, she has to limit her control over situations she already knew was going to happen. She has to keep her involvement to a minimum.

 

Lastly, since it was a brand new life, she had to forget all of the things she used to do in her past life before her reincarnation.

 

If she wanted to become a better soldier that can protect her own life, she had to do a lot of things that were uncomfortable to her.

 

Within these seven days, Natalie strived hard to blend in while continuing her pursuit to become a better swordsman under the supervision of Largo and Jaori.

 

One day, Natalie prepared for another duel. It was going to be another sword only duel but this time, it was with a trainer , Mr. Jaori. They wanted to see how well Nat would hold her ground.

 

This was her first lesson. A swordsman should be able to hold his/her ground no matter what.

 

One of the training grounds' arena was a covered court with gray steel foundations. This court was floating beside a lake. There were a lot of trainees swimming on the lake to train their stamina and combat underwater.

 

Natalie on the other hand was in the middle of the arena with her sword in front of her.

 

There were a lot of things in her mind. The reason behind her murder, her stance, her form, and the fact that her killer might be somewhere around her, observing.

 

"Are you ready, Ms. Breck?" Jaori told Nat, as if inviting her. "All you have to do for now is to parry my attacks. Here I come."

 

Jaori started to walk toward Natalie and drew her sword. He was walking at a consistent pace, her eyes fixated on Nat's.

 

Natalie did not know what Jaori was up to. It was her first time sparring with a trainer.

 

"Why is he walking toward me? Is that a form of attack, or is that a bluff? Will he lunge toward me if he gets close?" Natalie thought. "Is he underestimating me? Of course he is. He is a trainer after all.”

 

Natalie did not know what to do while Jaoiri was already close enough to land a blow. He executed a forward slash and Natalie evaded it, then dashed backward to maintain a distance.

 

Some of the boys that were training around the court were watching. They can’t help but snicker on what she just did.

 

“Don’t cloud your mind, Ms. Breck,” Jaori said. “You are only making it easier for me. Remember what Largo told you about maintaining your own territory.”

 

Natalie remembered that her strategy on free-for-alls might be effective, but when it came to combat in which she already ran out of bullets, she’s useless.

 

“I have to be able to stand my ground,” Natalie said. “Firm feet. Where I am standing now should always be an advantage and not a place that I should flee from. I am my own territory.”

 

Jaori started to walk toward Natalie again. This time, Natalie remembered all her training about parrying. Though she still doesn’t have enough upper body strength to do multiple parries, she must at least parry the first slash, the easiest one.

 

By the time Jaori was close enough, Natalie held her ground and gripped the hilt of her plastic training sword. He executed another forward slash and Natalie parried it perfectly.

 

“Good,” Jaori said, then executed another slash. “Just keep at it Ms. Jaori.”

 

Natalie understood why Jaori was walking toward her instead of dashing in. It was a lesson about standing on one’s ground. Every step that Jaori made, already meant that he was advancing his territory toward Natalie.

 

It did not matter if it was a flashy dash forward, what matters was he was advancing slowly but surely.

 

Jaori slashed his blade after Nat’s parry. Then, the pace of Jaori’s slashes began to grow faster. She noticed this change and managed to keep up with it, but she was sacrificing her ground as she continued to step back.

 

Jaori did not hold back the strength of his slashes.

 

This was where she realized how upper body strength is important to maintain one’s ground.

 

Then, Nat was finally able to parry one of Jaori’s slash without taking a step back.

 

Some of the boys were amazed by Nat’s progress.

 

“Very good. Now that you have the ability to stand your ground, you are now able to withstand a dozen slashes from a trainer like me,” Jaori explained. “Your upper body strength has improved too, but it is still not enough.”

 

Jaori then pushed Nat using his own blade upon her sword and sent her flying. She landed on her back and shouted.

 

“Why did you do that?” Natalie shouted while standing up. Her training uniform is covered in dirt.

 

“You deserved one serious swing from me. That’s to give you a comparison between an opponent’s real strength, and that of a trainee’s,” Jaori explained while sheathing his sword. “As you can see, the difference is great. You have to work harder.”

 

“Fine. I’ll build more on my core now,” Natalie said as she dusted herself.

 

“Hey Mr. Jaori, I want you to throw the same swing you just did to Natalie,” one of the boys who was training around the court said as he approached. “I can parry that swing better than that bitch.”

 

“What did you call me?” Natalie said.

 

“Natalie, don’t,” Jaori said.

 

“But this asshole just used the B word on me,” she said.

 

“And now you are even by using the A word on him, make peace with it,” Jaori smiled. “Maintain a calm composure. This is important to become stronger.”

 

“Fine,” Natalie said, rolling her eyes.

 

Jaori approached the boy without drawing his sword.

 

“I know that you won’t be able to handle a swing like that, Jared, and I understand that you really want to try it so badly. May I ask why?” Jaori asked formally.

 

“Because I don’t like this special treatment you’re giving her. Including Largo,” Jared said with a smile. “Just because she is a girl, doesn’t mean she needs to be treated differently.”

 

“We don’t. Her skills with swords is below average, thus the parrying training. Your skills in blades are already good, based on your score sheet, so you don’t have to go through all this,” Jaori explained.

 

“I have never experienced the full force of a trainer,” Jared said. “If you did it to a flimsy girl like her, why can’t you do it to me, too?”

 

“Flimsy girl? What does that supposed to mean?” Natalie blurted out from a distance. “I can hear you, you piece of shit!”

 

“How about this, I’ll let you try parrying one of my swings in full strength if you can beat Natalie in a duel,” Jaori said.

 

“Done,” Jared drew his sword and dashed quickly toward Natalie.

 

Natalie was not prepared and was shocked that the duel had already started, but the distance that Jared had to cover still gave her a lot of time to think.

 

He was under the impression that it was an all swords duel when in fact, the rules have not been defined yet. Considering this, he was confident that dashing toward his adversary and ending the bout swiftly.

 

Natalie smiled knowing that she already won.

 

While he was about to close his distance and land a blow, Nat dodged the first slash. Jared was about to make another follow up slash expecting Natalie to parry with her sword.

 

Instead, Nat made a twirl evading the follow up attack then used the momentum of this movement to whip her long hair onto Jared’s eyes.

 

Jared did not expect that move. His eyes hurt and that threw him out of his concentration.

 

Natalie ended the duel by shooting Jared on the forehead.

 

“What?!” Jared exclaimed while red paint dripped from his face. “Why did you use your gun?!”

 

“Neither you nor Mr. Jaori mentioned that it was an all-swords duel,” Natalie said confidently. “Pinhead.”

 

“You dipshit, we’re in a swordsmanship arena!” Jared defended himself.

 

“There are no rules that say you can’t use your training guns in a swordsmanship arena. They are not lethal, so you can use them wherever you want,” Jaori explained. “And yes, she can use her hair in battle, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

 

“What do you mean she can use her hair in battle?? That’s just not right!” Jared continued to defend his honor.

 

“It appears that you still have a lot to learn, Mr. Jared Simmons,” Jaori said as he walked away from the arena. “Let’s go, Nat. We will train your central core in the foothills.”

 

Natalie followed closely behind Jaori ignoring Jared’s remarks.

 

The crowd that gathered around the duel dispersed. The trainees went back to their training.

 

“You have done well. I have never seen you do crafty moves like that,” Jaori praised Nat. “If I were your opponent, a strategy like that would throw me off too.”

 

“Does that mean that I’m getting better?” Natalie asked intently.

 

“More like changing,” Jaori said. “Which is scary to trainers like me. Let’s just hope it’s a positive change.”

 

Jaori smiled at Natalie as they continued to walk toward the foothills.

 

“What do you mean by scary…?”

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