The fighters gather in the tunnels and stations of an abandoned metro system. With the now adopted self-driving vehicles and logistics drones, all antique transportation systems have been completely abandoned in most parts of the world. Arriving at the right station wasn't easy at the beginning and involved reading long disused maintenance and technical maps of the place. But it gave the fighters all the privacy they needed. Nobody ever comes this way, not even the central authorities who maybe have forgotten these places exist in the first place. The entrances were blocked by previous administrators, and would now be considered something more of an archaeological finding.

When Jay arrived at the main station that served as gym and training space, A was there with her fighter outfit on: a tight fit top tank and mini skirt and shoes with shoelaces up to her knees, greek style, but all in black. The perfect combo to accentuate her strong legs, bulky arms, small hips, and sturdy back. A was the best amongst fighters in part because she was born with the privilege of being male. Not many people in the outside world would take a person wearing a miniskirt seriously. But within these rooms, you would never want to be in the fighting ring if she walks in as an opponent.

A is also called the Teacher or the Master, for she was the First One. Or at least so the legend goes, and since every other fighter nickname comes after A, we all just assume she is the very first fighter and the creator of this underworld society.

Last time Jay talked to A, the argument escalated so much they hadn’t spoken to each other since. But they have seen each other frequently during training and fights. Today was a busy day in the training room and even though A seemed absorbed coaching a girl and a guy that were practicing sparring, Jay went straight to talk to A.

"Master, would you have time to talk today at some point?" asked Jay, in a secure and determined way that always surprised everyone else. Jay and A had a special relationship, or they used to have. A would give Jay special attention and more training when she first joined. Not many of the people present here would remember, since most joined after Jay (Jay was the 10th member of the fighters), but the history of this society is so short that people still have enough memory space in them to learn and remember almost everything that happens. Jay always wondered what made her special for getting so much attention from the master, but she never dared ask. The teacher rarely appreciated giving information about herself. She would sometimes offer you her wisdom, but you could not ask for it. Much like a psychologist or a buddhist would not tell you the things you are not ready to hear yet. Except of course, everyone felt A's reasons to tell or withhold information was much more arbitrary. Still, everyone admired and respected A so much, not only because she paid them to become fighters asking nothing but patience and persistence in return.

A didn't look surprised when she turned around to Jay and said, "sure honey, let's meet in 5 for coffee." Jay was relieved that Master seemed as natural as before the argument. Like it never happened at all.

When A says let's meet for coffee she means that they would drink coffee while they talk. And then right after, they would hold a proper fight, except that there could be little or no audience since there is no much warning for these events. The point was that while talking, coffee starts accumulating in your body and raising your heart rate and making you feel more active and alert. This added to the high emotional intensity of the topic of conversation makes it a perfect combination for having a motivation and a challenge to fight right after that. It gives you a perfect opportunity to fight in undesirable circumstances, against a very strong opponent.

That is the cost of talking to the master. Maybe she will provide helpful insight or advice. Maybe she will tell you to keep fighting till you learn what you need to know on your own. Maybe she doesn't even tell you anything while the two drink coffee. It's a gamble so it is only worth taking it if you have something really important to discuss with your master. Otherwise, why would you put yourself through that?

What Jay and nobody knows when A invites you for coffee is if she even listens to you before deciding if she will be responsive during the conversation, or if she decides based on the conversation topic. They may never find out. Jay only hoped for the best and accepted whatever result. "Life is constantly changing and we can not control anything about it. So just flow with whatever happens. It is the best attitude to have in a fight with an unpredictable opponent anyway, so why not train it all the time?" is what A had more than once told them during training. Constant change, unpredictable events, lack of control. External control anyway. “The only sense of ‘control’ we can hope for comes from within. And even inside the best way to take control is to let go of everything and trust our training."

The memories of this advice came to Jay’s mind while preparing a cappuccino for herself and a flat white for master at the espresso bar at the end of the main station. There were a couple of fighters chilling. Our profession may be a secret to the outside world, but within these tunnels, we are an open culture, so we all learn together, especially from each other’s mistakes. So Jay could only hope for so much privacy during their talk. Everyone was minding their own business usually anyway.

When A arrived she told the two fighters, Tee and Doublebee, that they should be practicing some more of their blocking fundamentals. Tee was teaching Doublebee as peer training was the main learning technique fighters use. The only other two learning techniques are fighting, and fighting with a master. Nothing within these walls is strictly obligatory, just as there are no forbidden things - just an array of coexistence norms. Still, anyone knew better than to take A's recommendations lightly, so they went straight back to practice. Jay wondered if A was looking for some privacy to talk, which made her surprisingly more nervous.

"So it is time," began A, "we are finally talking again. Did you miss me?"

"Everyday, master," replied Jay, respectfully. "I come to you in great distress." Well, as you may have noticed fighters love a bit of drama, and some of them read a lot of classic literature and have a poetic way of expressing themselves. Especially if they want to be taken seriously. It is very fun to joke and mess around, and switching to ‘literature mode’ was the unwritten rule that whatever is said must be taken seriously, basically.

A's attention was in her flat white, so Jay knew she was supposed to continue talking: "I had been sent a warning and don't know what it means. Maybe someone is trying to kill me, or just putting me to a test. My way of life is simple and I don't want that to change. But this morning I woke up to a flooding room so I know I can't carry on without change. You have known me for years and know better than anyone else about my simple life and family. I am lost as to where to go and what to do, and fear I have to fight for my life from now on." And only there did Jay realize that the fear was only growing. Her words were all carefully selected as to not ask or request anything from the master. For if you ask a direct question, you may get a direct answer (or not), but she won't give you her wisdom of the situation as a whole. “By asking the wrong question, you can get into wrong and even dangerous paths," is one of the early lessons every fighter learns.

A sighed. "I was hoping we would only talk about our differences of opinion from last year... And that this day would never arrive Jay. I am sorry you will have to be very strong." And saying that she gave the last sip to her coffee, which meant the conversation was over and the fight would begin.

Jay, perplexed, really believed her apology... A said it with real sadness in her voice, almost in desperation, a feeling she had never sensed in her teacher. She wanted to ask for more details, wanted to scream for help, to stop the world and have someone make sense of this. But it was time to fight and the first step before a fight is to clear your mind. No strategy this time, like in the morning when facing an unknown enemy. This time she had gotten rid of all thoughts about her emotions, and let her feelings, her training, and the coffee rush, guide her.