Chapter 4: Fighter's Spirit
Salena and Alinda were trying to get Lea ready to fight Hilda. It was the last round that Lea had to survive to be accepted back into the gym. Everyone knew that Hilda was the strongest of them all, especially since she was in the heavyweight division, but that wasn't the only thing that made her a strong opponent.
"Listen, Lea, this might help you survive the entire round. First of all, Hilda is a slugger, so don't expect a lot of amazing techniques, just worry about the insane strength behind her punches," said Alinda, who was explaining in urgency.
"What's a slugger?" asked Lea.
"Remember the way you were fighting me?"
"That's a slugger, someone who relies on raw strength instead of footwork or technique. They don't really need any of that because a well-placed punch is all they need to knock someone down. The problem with Hilda, is that she's actually smarter than most sluggers. She's going to wait and try to look for the opportunity to strike."
"So, she's fast?"
"She is, not faster than me, but she's faster than most sluggers. She's also very resilient, so you won't be able to knock her down, but you might be able to stun her." After Alinda said that, Salena gave more advice, hoping to be of some assistance.
"You know, you can also just clinch on her to kill time."
"Yeah, like this." Salena tried to demonstrate by grabbing Alinda, but for Lea, it looked more like a hug. That brought a light blush to Alinda's cheeks, which Lea believed to be out of embarrassment. "This is called a clinch, which is basically just grabbing the opponent. After a while, the referee will try to separate both boxers, but it gives a little bit of time to recover." After Salena finished the explanation, she let go of Alinda.
"Yes, well…she's right. You can use that to stop Hilda in her attacks, but if not done properly, she can still attack you. So, try to grab her in a way that doesn't let her use her arms," said Alinda, who tried to regain her composure, but her cheeks kept their red color. After a few moments, it started to subside.
"Is there anything else you could tell me? Is there something else I could do to last longer?" asked Lea, who was getting nervous. Alinda and Salena looked at each other, and the truth was, that they never fought Hilda before. They only watched some of Hilda's matches, which she won all of them with a KO. Since keeping quiet would make things worse, they decided to tell her already. They both returned their gazes to Lea, and Alinda said.
"There really isn't much more to tell, we never fought her because of the difference in weight divisions. The only thing we can tell you is to run away from her, or she'll KO you fast." Alinda answered with a sad face. Then, she lowered her gaze to avoid looking at Lea's worried face.
"Yeah, I mean, just look at her, it looks like she can beat you with a single finger," said Salena, who was also sad, and everyone started to look at Hilda. Salena wasn't joking that much, muscles could be seen from Hilda's abdomen to her arms and shoulders. If they could look at her back, they would see more well-toned muscles with nothing but power in them. Hilda noticed their gazes and thought.
"Why are they looking at me like that? Do I have something on my face?" Back to Lea's corner, they were still thinking of ways to help Lea survive the round, while they were helping Lea recover from her previous match. The swelling seemed to be going down little by little, but not enough to be fully gone by the time the match started. The biggest worry was Lea's stamina. Everyone knew that Lea was going to need all of her stamina to last the entire round. Hilda had more than enough stamina to last the entire round, and even more if necessary. Fortunately, Lea's breathing was good, so that was a good sign that she was getting some of her energy back.
Outside of the ring, some of the members were wondering how long was Lea going to last, not if she can actually make it.
"I think she's going to lose in the first minute," said a member.
"No way, I say in the second minute, she seems to have done well with Salena." Another member argued.
"I don't think so. Salena's punches don't have Hilda's strength. Besides, Salena was of a lower weight division than Lea, which must have helped her a lot."
"Maybe Hilda isn't going to take it seriously. Lea might just make it by luck."
"I don't remember the last time that Hilda didn't take a match seriously. She might go all out in the beginning of the round."
"You really think so? Lea might go down with a single punch if that's the case." Out of the group, Fergus, Alfred and Alonso were thinking somewhere around that area, but still differently.
"Sir, I think Lea has done more than enough to get into the gym. Salena and Alinda seem to have made friends with her, why does she have to go against Hilda? She could get a dangerous injury in this fight." Questioned Alfred in concern.
"Is not a matter of whether she did enough or not, she simply hasn't showed me anything yet," answered Alonso with a neutral face.
"What exactly are you waiting to see, sir? Lea obviously can hold her own against two trained boxers when she never paid attention on her own training."
"Maybe the coach isn't looking for fighting capabilities, but something completely different from that," said Fergus. Alfred had no clue on what Fergus or Alonso were talking about, so all he could do was to wait and see the results of the match.
Alinda and Salena were thinking of a tactic that could work against Hilda.
"You should probably stay far from her and just wait until the bell rings. After all, that's what the coach said, to survive against the three of us," said Alinda.
"You know that Hilda is way faster than what she looks like, Lea may have to fight it out. Lea, aim for the body, make her movements slow so you can take a break from her," said Salena, who knew that it wouldn't work. Both Alinda and Salena knew it, but Alinda was just trying to help, just like Salena.
"It's too risky, Hilda might land a punch on Lea, and looking at her condition, she could get in a lot of trouble if it landed."
"Then she can duck. Hilda is taller, so Lea might have a chance with ducking." The couple kept at it, letting their frustration be known, and Lea stop them by saying.
"Thanks for worrying about me, but I'm going to have to do it my way. I'm going to face her head-on. I won't get anywhere if I run away from her. Besides, how am I supposed to show what I can do if I don't fight back? How am I supposed to show how serious I am to return to the boxing ring?"
"Yeah, but that's if you actually survive the round. If not, it would have been for nothing."
"I know, but I can't just run away." Alinda could see that Lea wasn't going to change her mind.
"It seems that we have no choice, but to let her go with her plan. She isn't exactly out-boxing material, and the boxing world is a dangerous place. This will prove that she's ready, we have to believe in her boxing," said Alinda. Salena didn't like the sound of that, she didn't even look convinced, but she got no choice.
"Okay, just be careful, or she's going to kick your tail," said Salena with a serious face. After that was said, Alonso announced that the match was about to begin, and ordered the seconds to get out of the ring.
"Seconds?" asked Lea.
"That would be us, your advisers, which are usually the coach and someone with medical expertise," answered Alinda, and before leaving the ring, Alinda and Salena said one last thing to Lea with a smile. "Good luck, Lea." Alinda was the first to leave the ring and sent her good luck.
"You can do it, Lea," said Salena with a thumb up for Lea.
"Thanks, I'll do my best." After Lea said that, she got up from the stool, feeling better because of their words. Then, Lea put a serious face, showing that she was ready to fight. At that moment, both boxers were waiting for the sound of the bell. Determination could be seen on Lea's eyes, sending the message that she won't go down no matter what they threw at her.
"That's it, that's the look of someone who is ready to fight," thought Hilda with a smile to Hilda
"This is different than when I fought Alinda and Salena, the air feels heavier than before," thought Lea, who was feeling the pressure that Hilda's presence was giving in the ring. It made Lea feel her doubts and fears creeping up on her, but she refused to let it get to her with as much willpower as she could muster. Fortunately, she didn't have to dwell on it too much because the bell ringed.
Both boxers left their corners and started to head to the middle of the ring. Lea with the Peek-a-boo stance, while Hilda used a standard stance with the hands up. Lea stopped moving before she reached the middle of the ring, which everyone noticed, but very few knew why.
"Now that I notice, the pressure gets even bigger the closer I get to Hilda," thought Lea. She didn't expect it, but it was hard to move closer to Hilda, who had a serious expression on her face. Then, Lea got close enough to feel the pressure at full force. Hilda noticed the hesitation on Lea and decided to charge in. Hilda threw a right straight, which Lea avoided by sliding to the left. It didn't connect with Lea, but the strength behind it was enough to scare her. "What was that? The air felt like it was been cut by a sword, what would have happen if it had hit me? No, I can't think that way, I have to fight." After gathering herself, Lea started to get close to Hilda, who was now facing Lea. Once Lea was close enough, she threw a right uppercut at Hilda's body. Hilda blocked with the left arm and attacked with a right hook. Lea ducked the punch, and stood up with a left uppercut to Hilda's chin. Hilda moved back and the uppercut missed its target. Then, Hilda rushed in with a right straight, but Lea dodged the punch. Then, Lea threw a right hook at Hilda's head, but Hilda quickly blocked it with her left arm. Hilda pulled her right arm back and threw a right uppercut at Lea's body, which Lea blocked with her left arm. The force made Lea slide back, finally feeling the strength behind Hilda's punches.
"What power! Now I know how Alinda and Salena felt when they took my punches. One of them could make me go down easily!"
"So this is what it feels like. Truthfully, these punches are powerful, she could easily take over the middleweight with enough training, but strength is not enough. There's something else that you need to get the belt," thought Hilda, who was impressed by Lea's strength. Then, she charged in with a left straight. Lea ducked the punch, and stood up with a left uppercut to Hilda's chin. Hilda stopped the punch by protecting her chin with the right hand. The damage was reduced, but she could still feel some of it. Lea didn't want to let the opportunity to slip away and started to throw a right straight at Hilda. Unfortunately, Lea was countered by a left jab to her face, which stopped Lea from launching her attack. Normally, a jab wasn't strong enough to cause serious damage, but considering Lea's opponent, the jab was strong enough to do it.
"Wha…? That's a jab? It hurts more than the jabs I have been hit with." Once Lea was stopped in her tracks, Hilda threw a right straight, which Lea blocked, but it drove her close to the ropes. Hilda threw a left and right punch, pushing Lea all the way to the ropes. "Oh no, she was trying to trap me!" Out of desperation, Lea tightened her guard and prepared for the assault, which came fast. Hilda rushed in and started to throw a barrage of punches, which weren't necessarily hooks or uppercuts. Hilda just kept throwing punches, hoping to break the tight defense that Lea was using.
"Blocking isn't going to protect you forever, lass." Hilda continued with her relentless attack, breaking Lea's defense little by little. Lea knew that it was just a matter of time before Hilda would land a blow.
"These punches are too powerful for me. I can't hold them back for long. What do I do? What do I do?" Then, Lea noticed a way out of her predicament. While having her arms up, Lea rushed in and stood close to Hilda, which stopped Hilda's barrage. Hilda threw a right hook at Lea's body, but Lea parried the punch with her left arm and landed a right hook to Hilda's chin. Hilda threw her head to the right, reducing the power of the punch to near nothing. Hilda retaliated with a right hook of her own, which Lea blocked with her left arm and used the power behind the attack to move out of the ropes. Hilda charged in and gave the motion of throwing a right straight, which made Lea protect her face. Hilda feinted the attack and threw a left hook. The punch launched Lea's guard to the side and threw a right punch at Lea's body. The blow was so powerful that Lea bent forward and groaned in pain, but she kept standing. Hilda didn't stop there, she threw a left hook, but Lea blocked the punch with the right arm. Unfortunately, she couldn't block its full power and took some damage. Lea managed to get away to recover from the blow to her body, but Hilda followed as quickly as possible. Lea threw a jab, hoping to stop Hilda, but it only slowed Hilda down momentarily and she rushed in again. Lea threw a right straight, doing the 1-2, but Hilda saw it coming and dodged to the left, while launching a right cross to Lea. Lea ducked the counter, but she was left unbalanced and it took her a moment to recover. Hilda threw a left punch at Lea's head, but Lea ducked the punch and started to retreat again. After ducking and moving away, Lea started to feel fully recovered from the blow to her body and decided to attack Hilda. Lea believed that, if she attacked with quick and compact punches, then Hilda won't be able to attack. Lea charged in and started an in-fight. Lea attacked with quick uppercuts and hooks to Hilda's body, not giving a chance for Hilda to hit back, so Hilda had to guard herself. Everyone could see that Lea started to get a rhythm and set the pace to her advantage, since Hilda fought mostly in the brawler style.
Everyone was amazed by the fact that Lea decided to attack head-on against Hilda, which they thought to be the craziest idea anyone had.
"Hey, Lea is a crazy, but tough Lamia," said one member.
"I know man, this is awesome," said another member.
"Ha, you owe me five bucks, give them here."
"That looks like a simple, but effective plan." The members kept on going, but Alonso wasn't amazed by the plan itself.
"True enough, brawlers aren't famous for their quick punches, but because of raw power. Attacking them with a relentless attack would make it difficult for them to retaliate, but that's not what makes it incredible. What makes it incredible is the tremendous courage to fight them face to face, knowing full well that a punch from a brawler could quickly end the fight," thought Alonso, who was impressed, but he wanted to see something more than that.
Lea kept her attack against Hilda, but everyone knew that Lea will eventually get tire and start to slow down. Lea's breathing was getting labored, a sign that she had to stop and take a breather, but she didn't do it. Lea simply kept punching, which was a surprise to everyone.
"When is she going to stop? At this rate, she might collapse because of a lack of air," thought Hilda in surprise. Lea didn't seem to care about it and kept throwing punch after punch. "Well, I'm not going to just sit here and take it, I have to risk it." Hilda opened her guard and took a right hook to her body. Hilda resisted as much as possible and threw a left hook at Lea's head. Lea wasn't expecting Hilda to resist the hook and took Hilda's blow. Lea staggered, stopping her attack in its tracks and Hilda used the opportunity to retaliate. Hilda landed a right punch on Lea's body again, which made Lea slid back in pain. Lea didn't recover fast enough and was punched by a left hook to her head again, which almost knocked her down, but she refused to fall. Lea's face was starting to swell, but the determination was still visible in her eyes. Lea retaliated with a quick left punch to Hilda's face, which Hilda ducked and threw a right at Lea's body. Lea parried it to the left and threw a right hook. Hilda ducked again and threw a left at Lea's body, but Lea quickly blocked it with the right arm. Then, Hilda threw a right straight, and Lea blocked it with the shoulder, but she was pushed back. "All this punching around won't do, guess I'll have to rise the risk." Hilda knew that the punches that she was throwing weren't enough. So, she dropped her guard and put her hands to the sides. Everyone knew what it meant, Hilda wanted to end the match with the next punch, and that was the stance to do it.
Alinda didn't like what she was seen, and neither did Salena. They both knew that taking a punch from Hilda at that moment, was almost lethal. They also knew that a minute had passed since the beginning, and Lea only needed to survive two more to pass, but Hilda wanted to finish it.
"This is bad, that stance may drop the guard completely, but in exchange, it puts more weight in each punch, giving it more power. However, it's easy to counter, but Lea is not a counter-puncher. Lea doesn't know this, but one of those punches might KO her quickly," thought Alinda, and she was about to warn Lea about it, but Lea already started to charge at Hilda. Salena started to yell at Lea to warn her, but it might be too late.
"Don't rush, Lea, back off!"
Lea could have sworn that someone was calling her, but she was focused on attacking Hilda, seeing that Hilda dropped her guard completely to her sides.
"This is it! I can beat her like this! I'm going to make it! I can do this!" Thought Lea. She rushed in and started to attack with a 1-2, but Hilda dodged with compact movements of her head and started to move to the side. Lea tried to follow with left jabs, but Hilda either kept distance or dodged, so none of the jabs hit. Lea didn't understand why Hilda was evading so much. Lea realized that Hilda was waiting for something, but didn't know what. That made Lea keep distance and kept attacking with left jabs, not wanting to fall for something dangerous. After dodging a jab, Hilda threw a right, which was fast, and Lea blocked it, but that single punch blew away her guard. Then, Hilda threw a left, which Lea barely ducked. Lea decided to slide away from Hilda, surprised at the insane amounts of strength behind the punch. "What was that? My arm almost went numb with that single punch, how did she do that?" Hilda pursued and launched a left to Lea's face. Lea dodged to the left and slid away. Unfortunately, Lea was close to the ropes and got trapped, which was what Hilda wanted to do. Hilda rushed in and threw a right, which Lea attempted to block. The punch went through Lea's guard and it hit her right in the face. There was no need to keep punching because Lea fell to the mat almost instantly. Hilda started to slide to the neutral corner, while Lea was sitting on the mat with her head down, not moving a single muscle. Then, the count started.
"1…2" Alonso was counting, while Alinda and Salena started to call Lea. Salena even started to hit the mat with her palms.
"Leaaaa, come back! You have to get up!" yelled Salena. They knew that it was a serious hit, and they started to worry that Lea wouldn't be able to get up.
"3…4…5" Alonso was still counting and Lea didn't show any signs of been awake or starting to get up. Lea was just sitting still. They couldn't even see her face because her head was down. Suddenly, Lea started to lift her right arm and grabbed the rope, which she used to help herself to get up.
"What…insane strength. If it wasn't…for my guard…it would have been much worse. This is insane…someone would normally…stay down. I could get killed here…but I don't want to…stay down. I…never did anything worthwhile," thought Lea while getting up. Everyone was amazed, they couldn't believe that Lea would actually get up, they believed that she was dead. However, they thought that it would have been for the best.
"6…7…8" By the eight count, Lea was standing with her hands up. The members thought that it was unbelievable that Lea would get up.
"She gave me…purpose. She gave me…something worth…fighting." Lea was barely standing. Hilda could see that Lea was slightly swaying to the sides. Hilda came out of the neutral corner and started to approach Lea with the same stance as before. "I'm…going to keep fighting…I will…save her…even if it kills me!" Once Hilda was in the middle of the ring, she got a good look at Lea's eyes, even felt the air around Lea. Everyone around the ring could feel a different air around Lea, it felt heavy, some couldn't move properly. Hilda was used to it, so she didn't feel the effects, but she could see that Lea had a fighter's heart and soul. The most important assets for a boxer, and for a world champion.
"That's it, lass, that's what we wanted to see in you. That's what the coach wanted to see," thought Hilda. She charged in and threw a right punch, which Lea tried to guard, but failed. Lea was punched in the face again, but didn't fall. Instead, Lea retaliated with a right uppercut to Hilda's body. Hilda rolled with the punch to reduce damage to her body and landed a right punch on Lea's body. Lea bent forward, but she held on and threw a left hook at Hilda's head. Hilda slid back and dodged the punch, which made Lea lose her balance because it was a wide swing. While Lea tried to regain her balance, Hilda charged in and threw a left, which knocked Lea down again. Hilda headed back to the neutral corner and Alonso started the count again.
"1…2…3" Lea grabbed the ropes and started to get up again.
"Hey, she wants to keep fighting, this is insane," said a member in shock.
"This should be more than enough, why keep going?" asked another member.
"Lea." That was the only thing that Salena could say. She and Alinda didn't know what to say, feeling emotional at the sight of Lea's tenacity. In one part, they knew that Lea wanted to join the gym again, but on the other hand, it was was getting too much for her. They didn't know if they should stop the fight or let it keep going.
"7…8…9" Lea got up at the ninth count and put her arms up again. Hilda once again came out of her neutral corner and started to dash towards Lea, who was still in the same spot. Then, someone yelled.
"Stop!" Everyone turned their heads towards the source of the voice and it turned out to be Alinda, who was looking at Lea with disbelief in her eyes. Then, everyone turned their heads towards Lea, and they didn't notice anything different, but they do after a few moments. Hilda had a better look at her, and she was shocked. Lea was standing with her hands up, but her eyes were dull. Lea was unconscious, but then, she started to slowly move straight towards Hilda. Once Lea was close enough, Lea threw a slow and weak right punch at Hilda, which Hilda blocked with her left hand. Lea didn't seem to notice because she kept throwing punches at Hilda, which Hilda blocked.
"Even unconscious, she keeps fighting," thought Hilda, and it was more than enough for her. Salena and Alinda got into the ring and started heading towards Lea.
"Julie," thought Lea. Then, Lea reached her limit and started to collapse forward. Hilda grabbed Lea on time and put her on the floor. Then, Salena, Alinda, and Hilda took a seat around the unconscious form of Lea. Hilda looked back and said to the crowd.
"Bring some water for her." A member left to get a bucket. After that, the trio went back to looking at Lea, who had some swelling on her face and on the left eye, but nothing that required medical attention.
"She's really amazing, isn't she?" Said Alinda with sadness in her voice. Lea just had to survive that last round to be accepted, but it seemed that three different opponents were too much.
"That she is. Way different than before," said Hilda with a smile on her face. Then, they wondered what was driving Lea's spirit so much. It couldn't be as simple as just joining the gym. It must have been something more important than that. Only Lea knew what it was, so they were thinking of asking about that later. Salena turned towards Alonso with a serious expression.
"Coach, you have to let Lea join. She deserves it after coming this far." Salena didn't want Lea to wake up, just to find out that she wasn't allowed to join the gym.
"I have already decided." That was all Alonso said with a serious expression.
"What does that mean? Decided on what?" The coach didn't respond and his face didn't give any clue on what he was talking about. "Coach!"
"That's enough, Salena. We can't do anything about it. We just have to accept whatever the coach decided," said Hilda.
"It's just not fair. After all she went through."
"I understand, but the coach has the final word in this." Salena didn't like the sound of it. She really respected Alonso, but she wanted to help her friend. After that, the member brought the bucket of water and gave it to Hilda, who simply dumped the water on Lea's face. That brought a reaction from Lea, and she started to open her eyes. At first, Lea was disoriented, wondering what the trio was doing around her, and sat up. Alinda started to take the gloves off of Lea's hands, and Lea could see some sadness in her face. Lea could also see it in Alinda and Hilda's faces, which helped Lea remember what happened.
"I lost, right?" Said Lea while looking down in defeat.
"Yes." Is all Alinda said. Then, Lea lifted her eyes and looked at Alinda with a smile.
"Don't worry about it. I guess…I wasn't strong enough." Then, Lea looked at Hilda. "You're very strong. No wonder I lost so quickly." Lea gave them a smile, but they knew that she was just keeping herself from crying.
"You're not bad yourself," said Hilda with a smile. The response made Lea feel proud, but she was still saddened by the fact that she lost.
"Hilda, I'm-" Lea was about to start apologizing, but Hilda stopped her.
"Don't worry, lass. I already forgave you after looking at the new you." Lea didn't expect it that fast, and it brought her a bigger smile. To make it final, Hilda extended her hand. "Hilda O'Brien, nice to meet you, lass." Lea shook the hand and introduced herself.
"How do you feel, Lea?" asked Salena.
"A little tired, and sore, but I'll be fine." Lea tried to joke around, but it failed. Salena looked down and said.
"I wish we could do something for you." Lea put her hands in front of her.
"It's alright. You guys helped me a lot already. Thank you, everyone…for everything." Everyone knew that she was just trying to stay strong for them, not wanting them to feel bad about it. Then, they heard Alonso getting into the ring and approaching Lea, which made everyone stand up. Alonso was standing in front of Lea, just staring at her with an emotionless face, which made Lea look away from him. Lea extended her hand to Alonso and said.
"Thank you for the opportunity, sir. I'm sorry I couldn't make it." Alonso didn't say anything, but he grabbed her hand and shook it. Lea smiled because Alonso, at the least, shook her hand. Then, she felt something in her hand. Once Alonso let go of her hand, Lea checked what was on it and saw a key ring with two keys. Alonso started to walk away from her, then stopped and said to Lea.
"Follow me." After he said that, he kept walking. After hearing that, Lea started to follow Alonso, who was heading towards the stairs near the office. Alonso started to walk up the stairs, and Lea followed right behind him.
"Why are they going to the storeroom?" Said Salena in curiosity.
"I don't have the slightest clue," said Alinda. The members around the ring started to question the same thing, wondering why did the coach took Lea to the storeroom. They didn't have the time to keep thinking because Fergus started to talk.
"Okay, that's enough, everyone, back to your training. Some of you have matches coming up." After hearing that, everyone went back to their workouts and training. Salena and Alinda were curious as to why Alonso took Lea upstairs and decided to follow them. Hilda mostly went along because she didn't have anything better to do.
Lea and Alonso went up the stairs until they reached a closed door, which he opened. Alonso entered and Lea followed after him, and was surprised by what she saw. It was a room full of boxes and other boxing equipment, which were dusty because of their time inside. Alonso turned around, looked at Lea, and said.
"Here's the living room, on the left is the kitchen and on the right is the wall bed. That door in front is the bathroom." Alonso finished explaining everything rather quickly for Lea. As Alonso said, there was a kitchen with a stove and cabinets, but lacked a fridge and a table. On the near right corner, there was a sliding door, which could be a closet. Near the top of the right wall, was a handle, which could be pulled to bring down the wall bed. On the front wall, there was another door, which Lea didn't go into, but knew that it was a bathroom with a shower, sink, and toilet. On the right and left of the bathroom's door, there was a window. Also, there was a window on the left and right of the door leading to the stairs. Once Lea got a view of the room, she noticed people behind her, which were Alinda, Salena, and Hilda, waiting in the doorway. Alonso saw them and asked them with a frown. "What are you three doing here?"
"Why does the storeroom have a wall bed, a bathroom, and a kitchen?" asked Salena in confusion.
"That could only mean…is this an apartment?" Said Alinda with wide eyes.
"More like a studio apartment, a really old one," said Hilda while looking around.
"I used to live here when I started the gym, but I started a family and had to get something bigger than this place. Now, I used it just to store old or useless equipment, I didn't want anyone to find out about it because they would be asking to rent it. That would mean no storeroom for me, but now, I'll have to do something with this stuff later on," said Alonso, and then, he started to head towards the stairs, but before Alonso could leave, Lea stopped him.
"Why are you showing me this? What are these keys for?" asked Lea, who was the most confused from the group, and Alonso responded while looking back.
"You don't have a place of your own, right? You can stay here for as long as you need it. Training will start as soon as you recover from your injuries. Got it, chica?" After Alonso said that, Lea got a surprised look, which made him curious. "What is it?" Lea looked down to the floor while rubbing the back of her head.
"Uh, no, it's nothing. It's just that…you haven't called me that for a long time."
"I haven't? I guess, I just remembered it." Alonso left and the trio entered the studio. None of them saw it, but Alonso was happy when he left.
"Did I hear right? Lea is going to stay here?" asked Salena with a smile on her face.
"I was expecting something like that from the coach, but not this much," said Hilda, who was a little surprised, but happy.
"You knew all along?" asked Alinda.
"Of course, lass. The coach is actually a very kind man. All of this must be to help Lea get back on her feet."
"Isn't that great, Lea? You're a member again, and you have a place to stay," said Salena with excitement.. Then, she noticed tears on Lea's face, which made her worry. "Lea, what's wrong?"
"I did it. I really…did it," said Lea while covering her eyes with her left forearm, and everyone understood what she was talking about. "Just wait, Julie, I'll save you. Just hold on a little longer." It took Lea a few moments to compose herself, happy to know that she passed the challenge.
"Now, what do we do with this place? It lacks many things in here. Does the wall bed even have a mattress?" asked Alinda.
"Hey, why don't we help her with that? I think we can get a mattress somewhere," said Salena, who seemed to be having fun already.
"You're also going to need a fridge," said Hilda, who was already thinking on how to get one. Lea started to wave her hands in front of her.
"W-wait, it's okay, you've done a lot for me, and I can't keep taking this much without paying back," said Lea.
"Don't worry about it. Consider these as gifts for your home," said Salena with a wave of her hand.
"Besides, we want to help you, and friends help each other," said Alinda with a smile. Lea didn't seem to have a way to convince them, so she gave up and went along with it.
"Okay, but I'll pay you back somehow," said Lea with a serious face.
"Alright, she needs a mattress, fridge and-" Said Alinda, but she was interrupted by Salena.
"Food." Once Salena said that, Lea's stomach started to make noise, a lot of noise. Everyone turned their eyes towards Lea, and they could see Lea blushing.
"I-I haven't eaten anything yet." Lea started to laugh out of embarrassment.
"Well, let's take you out to eat." After Alinda said that, the group started to head out.
"Wait, what about your training? Are you busy today?"
"Actually, this is our day off, so we have nothing else to do," said Hilda.
"Oh, okay, are you sure?"
"Yeah, let's get ready," said Salena, who couldn't wait to go and eat. After that, they headed for the showers on the lower floor.
Once they finished getting cleaned up after a day of sparring, they head out to eat, mostly for Lea. They go to a restaurant nearby for Lea to get breakfast, or lunch, since it was midday. After they were seated and they gave their orders, Alinda asked a question.
"Say, Lea, where have you been this whole time after you left the gym?"
"Well, you know, just going around, nothing important," said Lea with a nervous smile, which made it easy to see that she was hiding more than that.
"That's it? Is that really all that you did? Just going around?"
"Well, I did got into some trouble after that, but I managed somehow."
"Now that I remember, the coach said that you had nowhere else to go, why is that?" Alinda and the rest realized that it was a sensitive subject because Lea looked at the table.
"I…I don't want to talk about it," answered Lea with pain in her voice, and a face to go along with it. The trio got worried about that response, which Lea saw in their faces. "Don't worry about. It's in the past after all. I'm a different person now, I promise." Lea tried to assure them with a smile.
"Well, I do like the new you," said Salena, who was already calm after looking at Lea's smile. After that, their food arrived on their table, and the conversation about Lea's past was dropped, but everyone, except Lea, realized something.
"I also like the new you, Lea, but the reason that you changed so much, was because the realization was a painful one. Fame and fortune don't make true friends, just leeches," said Hilda, and she was hoping that Lea didn't have to go through that again. Alinda was thinking something a little different than that.
"Lea may not realize it, but it left a scar in her mind. I hope she gets better with time." Salena also had an opinion in the matter.
"Well, as long as Lea is good, then it's good enough for me." The rest would have agreed to that. At that moment, they were focused on eating their food, more than anything else. After they finished with their meal, they went to get the essentials for Lea's new apartment. They got an old mattress, blankets, a pillow, groceries, and stuff for the bathroom, like soap, a sponge, and shampoo. Most of the stuff that they gave to Lea was something extra that her friends had or didn't need anymore. Lea didn't complain about it, since it was given to her for free, and as the saying goes: Beggars can't be choosers. They also got a fridge for Lea, which was old, but in good condition. They would check if the stove actually worked before deciding what to do with it. When they arrived to the gym, they were expecting some stares from the members. To Lea's group surprise, the members were focused on their training, so there was nothing eventful, until the group entered the apartment. The place was clean of dust and the boxes were gone.
"Did the coach cleaned up while we were gone?" asked Salena in wonder.
"Maybe he asked for help, since he couldn't do this all on his own," answered Alinda, but someone from behind them said.
"Actually, the members helped up as well." Lea's group turned around and found Alfred. "The coach asked them to help clean up. In exchange they wouldn't have to worry about the membership fee for a while. He even got someone to repair the stove and checked the bathroom," said Alfred with a smile.
"The coach did all that? For me?" asked Lea, who couldn't believe that Alonso would go that far.
"Yeah, but if you ask him in person, he would say that it's an investment. The coach isn't good at showing his kind side to everyone." That made Lea look down, not knowing how to pay Alonso back for all his help. Hilda saw that and put a hand on Lea's shoulder.
"Well, that means that you got to work hard on your training," said Hilda, and she knew that she didn't have to worry about that because Lea looked at Hilda and nodded in agreement.
"Wait, we forgot something," said Alinda, who mentally reprimanded herself for forgetting something so important.
"What's that?" asked Hilda.
"Clothes, Lea doesn't seem to have anything else right now." Alinda looked at Lea's clothing and everyone followed her gaze.
"Don't worry about it. I can give her some of my old clothes for her. It's not the best, but is better than nothing. I'll bring them later."
"You think they will fit her? You're not exactly what many would call average."
"Says the smallest one of the group." Hilda's comment brought a pout on Alinda's face. After Salena saw that, she hugged Alinda, and said in a playful tone.
"But that's what makes you cute." The comment got rid of the pout and brought a flush in its place. Lea didn't understand what she was looking, so she just let it go without a comment. Once the teasing was done and the clothing decided, they started to set up everything. After a few hours, the apartment was ready for Lea. As a celebration for Lea's acceptance into the gym and her new apartment, they cooked and ate in Lea's place. After they finished, Alinda, Salena, and Hilda decided to call it a day and headed to their respective homes, leaving Lea to enjoy her time alone. Lea started to move around her new home, lost in her own thoughts. She knew that it was just the beginning. Starting from that point, the road to her goal will be much more difficult, filled with strong opponents. Lea didn't have anywhere else to go, so she stayed all day in her apartment, resting as Alonso said. Once it was night time, someone knocked on Lea's door and Lea answered. It turned out to be Alonso, and he had a business-like expression on his face.
"Lea, we need to talk about something," said Alonso and Lea let him in. "As you know, I can't keep this place going without money, and as far as I know, you don't have a job."
"Yeah," answered Lea, who dropped her eyes to the floor.
"So, I have come up with a solution." Lea lifted her gaze from the floor and gave him her full attention.
"Uh, yes, what is it?"
"You're going to help around the gym, in exchange for the room. You will clean up the place, do errands for us, and help the members with their training. Considering your past, it might be hard for you to get a job." Lea couldn't deny it. She did some insane and ridiculous things in her past.
"Uh, yes, I'll help with anything that I can."
"Good, then you better get ready, tomorrow is going to be a long day for you."
"Yes, sir." Lea was enthusiastic about it, which softened Alonso, but he didn't let it show.
"Come with me, I'll teach you how to close the place." They both headed into the gym. Alonso taught Lea how to close the gym and how he expected the place to be like. That was how Lea's career as a boxer started again.