Chapter 2: Shadow Boxing

When the store closed Marrik's day was not done. Sparks watched as he checked the day's sale list against that morning's inventory before checking both against what was currently on display. It was a tedious process, but necessary to tell what might have been lost to shop lifting, and what had just been picked up then put back in a wrong section by browsing customers. There were always the few odds and ends pieces that would end up with one or two missing. These low value small objects were annoying when lifted from the store, but he has been lucky that nobody had tried taking any of the more one of a kind pieces on display. Few were stupid to try stealing a blasting rod if they didn't know if it would go off if they tried shoving it in their pants when nobody was looking. Even fewer seemed interested in trying after stories started making the rounds about a guy who literally lost the clothes on his back, along with the rest of him, when he tried. Marrik would neither confirm nor deny this, but it did help cut down on attempted theft.

To get to the building's basement anyone would have to go into the short term storage room and roll a rug to one side and lift a trap door. As Marrik started down the ladder Sparks hovered at the entryway. "Hey you gonna be alright down there Boss?"

"What," Marrik grinned back up at her. "Still don't want to come see my hobby room?"

"So long as it's a hole in the ground I can't fly out of? Nope!" Sparks smiled back and started to push the trap door closed. Then stopped before it was far enough to fall closed, "Hey you want me to let Cass in if she shows up?"

"Sure why not? I doubt she'll show, she's gotten several new Major Arcanea cards so she'll probably be tinkering with her deck, but if she shows she shows. You staying long?"

"Just til curfew. I still have a job, at least for a little while longer." Sparks then eased the trap door shut, leaving Marrik to climb down the short ladder into a dimly lit basement. Unlike the rooms above it was lit by glow stone rather than lamp light.

He looked to the book shelves to either side of the ladder and shook his head. Both were mostly empty and what books were there were battered third hand copies scavenged and repaired. He made a small gesture with his left hand, muscles rippling and tendons moving barely enough to make fingers witch, but it was enough for his magic to flow into and be directed by.

A table at the far end of the room pulled closer to one of the chairs he had managed to get down here. As he walked a cluttered work table he pulled one of the midnight blue books from his shoulder bag and sat the rest on the table he had just moved before seating himself. "Alright Mister Ian Woon," He spoke while flipping through pages. "Let's see if this book of yours is anything I can use."

More micro-gestures and Marrik had a trio of paper targets set against a far wall as he flipped through the book's pages. He then used his other hand to grab a book from beside the ladder and open it. Holding one book beside the other he compared diagrams and instructions. "Hey," He paused, looking at a familiar pair of legs as someone climbed down the ladder. "Cass, you mind taking a look at this?"

The woman adjusted her skirt then jacket once she was off the ladder. "Marrik you know I can't make heads nor tails of those books." She said with more than a touch of exasperation.

"Well would you mind if I try using you as a sounding board at least?" When Cass took her jacket off and sat in the other chair in the room he continued." So this book" Marrik held up the blue book he had gotten that day," Seems mostly like this one," He lowered the blue book and held up the other. "Problem is where they're different almost seems contradictory. I'm almost afraid to try since what Woon," Again holding up the blue book, "writes here acts like it's the only and absolute way."

"Any chance it could be designed to trip up newbies?" Cass asked while propping her feet up on a foot rest.

"Doubtful," Marrik explained, "Both are definitely from pre-war locations, and you just don't put traps in textbooks without putting a leading question in to make the student look at it as a problem instead of a guide."

"Check to make sure Amnion isn't either writing for Generalist or another elemental school?" Cass asked, "You made that mistake before with remote manipulation."

A pause as Marrik let both books drop before ruefully shaking his head and checking the older of the two books. "Well there's the problem," Another head shake before more magic and a little flexing sent the book to rest back in its place on the book shelf. "Generalist verses Specialist. Pity whoever had this thing didn't include lecture notes because it doesn't explain the why of anything."

"Well I guess that is a bit of a problem. Want to give it a try?" Cass asked, setting her feet back on the floor and leaning forward to watch Marrik stand. She watched as his stance widened and his arms slowly moved. He spoke each step as he made the appropriate motions. At the end of it the first target disintegrated, once wide paper yellowing with age before crumbling, and even the fragments fragmenting further until it became dust that slowly continued drifting ground-ward.

"Feeling alright?" Cass looked from target to Marrik then back just in time to see the second target disintegrate.

After the third target turned to dust Marrik allowed himself to smile. "That is so much easier and less messy than kinetic force spell work."

"Less messy til it's an actual person." Cass said as reminder. Then, seeing Marrik's face pale she asked, "So what's so different about a couple different motions? Just looking at the new form in action it looks like your average shove."

That turned Marrik's attention to something less gruesome. "Well it is a case of those extra and different motions causing me to pull in different energy," He explained. "Best I can describe is this. You need your morning tea right?"

"Yea?" Cass confirmed even though there was a note of curiosity in her voice.

"Imagine if you had to start the day with water." Marrik chuckled at the unamused expression on the lady's face. "Sure it's going to get you through and it's just fine, but if you're used to all the everything tea has and having to make do with something else, you're not going to get the same results. Best guess is the different shifts are needed to tap the right energy."

This caused Cass to nod, "Noticing the stands the targets are on aren't all banged up either. You're getting better at control. Good."

"Well," Marrik admitted, "It isn't me trying to shove one type of energy type through a conduit designed to work for another energy type. I could probably go for a few more repetitions. Make sure I have this."

Three more targets fluttered from where their stack on the shelves into place as Marrik skimmed further in. "Ah, here we are." He settled back into his chair.

"Was hoping there'd be some kind of explanation in the back. Now we're getting somewhere." Cass watched Marrik read, then as she caught herself beginning to nod off she slowly walked over to where Marrik sat, still nose down in the book before gently pushing the back of his headso his nose touched the page. "Hey might be good to not stay up late OK?"

"Yea, sorry." Marrik found a book mark before closing the book and sending it over onto an empty section of shelf along with the other blue books from his bag. "You going home or you want to stay over?"

It would add time to her morning ride to work, but Cass smiled. "Hey I have to stay, if I don't you'll end up not getting to sleep and trying to raise zombies or something." Marrik's response, after he got up, was to swat her pony tail and head for the ladder.

Sparks wasn't in the store when the two dropped the necromancy books in storage before they double checked the locks and went to the stairs leading up the side of the building to the second story apartment. Marrik jiggled the knob to his apartment door before both using a key and a series of small gestures ending with a traced pattern along the door before it swung open.

Cass immediately sprawled out on Marrik's sofa and started to snore, leaving Marrik to dress for bed in peace. His day ended with him gently laying a then blanket across Cass and going to bed. In the past he had tried to get her to take the bed and he the couch, but it was an argument he could never win, so now he stopped trying.

As he drifted off to sleep Marrik shoved aside his aggravation at the fact he would need to turn those books over before the end of the week. However even a week's time reading material suited to the magic he was attuned to was better than what he had before.




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