Chapter 44

Raimi And The Soft Winds Blow stood in the center of the practice room floor, her eyes closed. Her mail armor had been replaced with an HD-Plastic sports jacket, not unlike a pigskin player’s padding. The weapons she wore on each hip were not her short swords, but a pair of sheathed sticks, weighted to simulate the heft of her blades but padded to prevent injury.

Standing in a ring around Raimi were six people, each one bearing similar armor. Three carried padded weapons, one held a rifle-like device and two carried nothing at all. All stared at the half-elf with determined eyes.

A voice from above called, “Begin!”

Raimi’s eyes flew open and her lips began to move, murmuring arcane words under her breath. Three of her six opponents dashed forward, their padded blades held aloft. The warrior with the rifle aimed at Raimi and fired, launching a soft ball toward her at high speed.

The half-elf’s haste spell finished first. Her arm blurred to her side and drew a stick with impossible speed, cutting the projectile from the air. Her lips began to move again, preparing the next spell even as she drew the other stick.

The three melee fighters reached Raimi and attacked. She parried madly, knocking their weapons aside with practiced ease and preternatural agility. Before she was able to return their attacks, however, a trio of magic missiles arrived, hissing through the air toward the combatants. Raimi leapt into a backward somersault. The missiles veered to follow her, but couldn’t turn fast enough; they barely missed Raimi’s close-range opponents and struck the far wall.

Raimi hissed a flurry of arcane words, finishing the interrupted spell. A bubble of magic snapped up around her, then faded from view. The close-range fighters were upon her in a moment, but Raimi was ready; a forceful swipe with one stick disarmed the opponent in front of her and she dove through the gap she had created, neatly tumbling under a lateral swipe with a forward roll.

As soon as Raimi gained her footing she pointed both sticks at the rifleman, who had been unsuccessfully trying to draw a bead on her. She barked a few words and energy ran down the length of the sticks. A pair of missiles fired from the sticks, tracing an arc toward the rifleman. He tried in vain to dive away, but was struck by the missile and tumbled to the ground.

“Number four,” the omniscient voice said. The rifleman punched the ground in frustration and picked himself up, nearly unharmed from the sparring missile’s impact.

Raimi’s bubble shattered abruptly, and she turned her head to see that the mage who had not yet acted had just completed a dispel cantrip. The bubble had taken the spell’s effect, however, and Raimi retained her magical speed; she streaked toward the effect-mage with her weapons raised. She was forced to dive to the side, however, when another flurry of magical projectiles struck the ground she had been running toward.

Raimi growled to herself and ran again, tracing the edge of the room. The melee fighters tried to intercept her, but were not quick enough. The projectile mage’s breath was forced out of him as one of Raimi’s padded sticks struck him hard in the stomach.

“Number six,” the voice said. “Careful now, Raimi.”

“Shut up!” Raimi shouted, lunging toward the unprepared melee fighters. Her sticks blurred in dangerous arcs as they struck her opponent’s weapons away. A blow from one stick struck one of the fighters in the chest as the other collided with another fighter’s head. Raimi whirled and struck down the third fighter with both sticks.

“Numbers one, two and three,” the voice said.

Raimi leveled a gaze at the support mage, who blanched and raised both hands.

“And that’s match,” the voice said.

Raimi looked up. “No editorializing when I’m practicing,” she said firmly. “Ever.”

“’yesu, sorry,” Click said, clambering down from his perch on one of the support beams.

“You should know better,” Raimi said.

“‘Thanks for calling my sparring match, Click,’” Click said in a high-pitched voice, then switched to a lower tone. “‘Oh, sure, Raimi, no problem. Glad to help you.’”

Raimi rolled her eyes. “I should know better than to scold a faerie, I guess,” she said.

“Yes,” Click said. “Yes you should.”

“Dismissed,” Raimi called out to the training assistants, who scurried to comply. She turned back to Click. “Now what did you want to talk to me about?”

“Uh,” Click said. “Some time ago, you said that if I needed a frank, unbiased opinion about something you’d be the person to go to. Remember?”

“Yes I do,” Raimi said. “That relationship was a total failure, by the way.”

“And I’m sorry about that,” Click said, holding his hands up. “I might not be the best judge of character on earth. That’s why I’m coming to you.”

“I’d tell you some of the things he did, but it would be unladylike to mention them.”

Click was silent for a moment. “Now I’m interested,” he said.

“Ask me your question, churl,” Raimi replied. Her tone was curt, but a small smile graced her angular face.

Click sighed. “Mike Lewis,” he said.

“An employee of mine,” Raimi said. “And Miss Steve’s new boyfriend.”

“What do you think of him?” Click asked.

“He’s a good employee,” Raimi replied with a shrug. “Doesn’t get in the way, does his job. He seems all right.”

“What about his personality, though?” Click asked. “Does he seem like the sort of person who’s … I don’t know, easily influenced? Weak-willed?”

“I wouldn’t really know,” Raimi said. “He doesn’t really run in my friendwheels.”

Click chewed on his lip. “Ok,” he said. “I’m going to give you a hypothetical situation that didn’t happen, it’s just hypothetical. So you can’t hold anything I say against me, because it didn’t actually happen.”

“Because it’s hypothetical,” Raimi said dryly.

“Exactly,” Click said. “It’s hypothetical. So let’s say there was this guy. This guy who there isn’t, really.”

“Because he’s hypothetical,” Raimi added.

“Yes,” Click said. “He’s hypothetical. So. This guy who doesn’t exist has a magical ability that affects emotions and opinions. Like projective empathy.”

“Or Granfalloon Magic,” Raimi suggested.

Click looked pained. “Hypothetically, yes, he could be somebody who had the exceedingly rare ability of Granfalloon Magic, that is possible, since this is, you know…”

“A hypothetical situation,” Raimi said.

“Yes, exactly,” Click said. “It’s hypothetical. So this guy, who doesn’t exist, and for the purposes of this story let’s say he’s a faerie with Granfalloon magic, hypothetically speaking. So this guy is maybe doing some kind of unethical things with Granfalloon magic that he will seriously regret and be sorry about later.”

Raimi raised an eyebrow.

“Hypothetically speaking!” Click said, holding up a finger. “And anyway he regrets it a whole lot later, so let’s just not talk about that any more. So he ends up using it on … another guy. Another hypothetical guy.”

“Let’s call him Mike,” Raimi said, canting her head a little bit.

Click looked pained again. “Sure,” he said. “Totally hypothetical, so let’s just call him Mike because really his name could be anything. So this guy, this Granfalloon guy uses his Granfalloon magic on this so-called hypothetical ‘Mike’ guy.”

“Mm-hmm?” Raimi said.

“And, uh,” Click said. “It’s … really really easy. Really unexpectedly easy.”

Raimi’s expression grew more serious.

“Pretty much like taking candy from a baby. So our hypothetical guy, whose name is really seriously not Click, knows from experience that stronger-willed people are much harder to influence with this kind of magic. They have to be worked up to it, or it has to be about unimportant things. And this ‘Mike’ guy gets really easily affected by something and acts very out of character with very little pushing.”

“Meaning that…” Raimi prompted, obviously recognizing Click’s point.

“Meaning that Mike is—hypothetically speaking—extremely weak-willed,” Click said. “And let’s say hypothetically that Mike starts dating somebody that our guy really likes a lot.”

“Click,” Raimi said, holding up a hand. “I don’t think that I can talk about this.”

“But—” Click said, his eyes pleading. “It’s hypothetical!”

Raimi gave Click a look that hushed him immediately. The two stared at each other for ten seconds.

Raimi finally leaned in very slowly and murmured, “Watch him closely. Be ready to help her when the inevitable occurs. And do not think about revenge for even a moment.”

Raimi then turned and strode away, leaving Click and his ruminations alone in the dojo.