The Impossible Wizard: Chapter 5

If you ended up here before reading the earlier chapters, you can return to Chapter 1 here

 

Lady Raven quietly digested the news that a male wizard had been found. She sat on the edge of her soft couch in the richly appointed apartment she used when she needed privacy. Illusion magic blocked out the last annoying shafts of sunlight, leaving her with nothing but the dim, red glow from a pair of drift lights. Though the magic blocked the light she could still look through the window at her city. The Hierarchs had assigned Sentinel City to her because they trusted her to oversee the great task.

A light floral incense burned in an infuser, filling the room with a pleasant scent. Both the light and the smell served to settle her nerves and enhance her focus. If ever Lady Raven needed to focus, it was now.

The impossible thing the Le Fay Society feared most had come to pass. To think she’d live to see a male wizard born. It was impossible, yet she’d seen the test results with her own eyes. She could scream, rail at the gods, or deny to her heart’s content, but it wouldn’t change the essential truth.

The boy existed, and in her city no less. That made it Lady Raven’s responsibility to deal with him. Such an abomination couldn’t be allowed to survive. It wasn’t natural. In fact he was an insult to the natural order.

No man had the wit or grace to wield magic safely. All they were good for was brute labor and producing the next generation. If not for the latter necessity she would have wiped them all off the face of the earth without a second thought. Lady Raven pitied the poor women forced to endure their crude touch. She would happily cut her own throat before she let any man lay a hand on her bare flesh.

She stood up and paced, unable to focus despite her efforts. Plans needed to be made and Conryu Koda needed to die. Luckily Lady Raven had made allies for just such an eventuality. Not that she ever imagined needing to kill a male wizard, but the zealots would be happy to kill any wizard, including her, if they learned who she really was.

Lady Raven laughed and went to her casting chamber. The witless males would never guess the truth. She’d never even met them except on an encrypted online forum. It sickened her to think how many of the psychopaths wandered her city, but a good craftsman used the tools at her disposal.

The casting chamber held even less decoration than the almost-empty living room. No windows to offer distraction, no comfortable seats that might lessen her focus. All she had was a simple wooden desk and hard-backed chair. On the far wall a full-length mirror hung in a black, rune-scribed frame.

Lady Raven frowned at her reflection. When had she gotten so old? It seemed only months ago she’d been young and beautiful. She snorted at her useless thoughts. Who wouldn’t trade youth and beauty for knowledge and power? Besides, looks were easy enough to fix.

She chanted, weaving words of water and light to shape an illusion around her wrinkled body. Her face smoothed and lifted, lips plumped, and teeth cast off their yellow stain. When the spell concluded, the youthful face of her favorite persona stared back. Once she changed into an appropriate outfit, men would stare as she walked past, drooling like the dogs they were. Though she cared nothing for their opinions, Lady Raven enjoyed the power her new look gave her over the weak-willed fools.

Ten minutes later Lady Raven stood in front of her apartment building dressed in a short skirt, torn stockings, and half-buttoned blouse. With her magically enhanced figure and revealing outfit it didn’t take long to flag down a taxi to take her to this persona’s so-called job.

When they arrived at the internet cafe Lady Raven paid the cabbie and climbed out. The cafe occupied an old, run-down building that drew so much electricity through its under-maintained electrical box it was a wonder the place hadn’t burned down long before now. Not that she had any intention of letting anything happen to the place until she’d finished with it.

“You’re late, Lacy!” a fat thug said, playing his part as her obnoxious boss to perfection.

She’d told the man when she hired him to shout at her and run her down at regular intervals and he seemed to take a certain joy in the task. Once he’d dared to lay a hand on her and that offense had earned him a lesson in pain he’d never forget. It certainly hadn’t happened again.

“Sorry, boss,” she said.

Lady Raven rushed down between two rows of tables, each supporting four computers. They had a good crowd tonight, only three empty stations. Most of the men—it was always men in the cafe—were staring at cavorting nude figures and touching themselves under the tables. It disgusted her, but she expected no better from them.

She slipped into the back room where the routers and servers sat in their racks and shut the door behind her. Her laptop rested, closed, on her tiny station. It whirred to life when she opened the lid. When it finished booting up she activated a program that would disguise her current location and logged in to a private chat room where her dupes liked to hang out and talk tough.

As usual, the vitriol directed at women in general and wizards in particular on the site was truly horrific. If they didn’t have a part to play in her plans, Lady Raven would have been thrilled to murder them all.

It took a bit of searching, but she finally found one of her pet zealots. She struck up a conversation, playing the part of a wizard-hating true believer. After a bit of back and forth using particular phrases that established they were who they claimed Lady Raven tossed out the bait, mentioning a rumor of a male wizard.

Disbelief greeted her pronouncement. No surprise there. She insisted it was true and the idiot argued that it was impossible. They went back and forth some more before Lady Raven said there was going to be a press conference at the Department and if he wasn’t a gutless coward he’d be there to kill the abomination.

She logged out and smiled a self-satisfied smile. Nothing motivated the idiots like questioning their courage. Her tool would show up tomorrow, no doubt about it.

***

Conryu’s fist hammered into the quarter-inch rope wrapped around the wooden training dummy. Like a machine gun his palms and forearms smacked the wooden dowels that jutted from it at odd angles. His shin slammed into the fake leg with enough force to crack it. Sweat dripped off his nose and soaked his hair.

He’d come to the dojo early, both to help Dad with the morning class and to take his mind off the press conference Mr. Kane had set up for this afternoon. So far neither correcting the basic poses of the beginners or pounding out his frustrations on the dummy had done the least bit of good.

Mr. Kane had stopped by late the night before to tell them what he’d decided, just like Conryu had no say in the matter. At least they didn’t expect him to speak. All they wanted him to do was stand there while the reporters snapped some pictures, like he was some new sort of animal being delivered to the zoo.

He hit the center of the dummy with a double palm strike, rattling it in its frame.

“Your form is a mess.”

Conryu turned toward his father’s deep voice. The master of the dojo knelt before a small shrine that held a katana and wakizashi set that family legend claimed one of Conryu’s ancestors had wielded during the Elf War. He didn’t know if that was true, but the swords certainly looked old enough with their scuffed black scabbards and frayed ray-skin hilts. They were the oldest weapons in a room lined with just about every type of hand weapon imaginable, from simple staves to swords.

“Just trying to work off some stress.”

“Violence won’t help your anger, they feed on each other. Take deep breaths, move slowly. Let your chi flow from your core to your limbs, carrying the negative emotions away.”

Dad hopped to his feet and began the familiar kata. Like a man moving in water his father shifted from one pose to the next, each movement accompanied by deep breathing. Conryu joined in, falling into the rhythm of movements he’d first learned as a four-year-old.

As usual Dad was right. With each shift a little more anger left him until they stopped and Conryu felt at ease once more. They faced each other and he looked into the warm, gentle eyes of his father. Deep and brown, framed by fine wrinkles, those eyes held depths Conryu doubted he’d ever plumb.

“Better?”

“Yeah. Thanks, Dad.”

They bowed to each other and his father finally smiled. “May as well enjoy your five minutes of fame, Conryu. In a week they’ll have forgotten all about you.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“Of course I’m right. With age comes wisdom.”

“And humility.”

“Smart ass. When are you supposed to head over?”

Conryu yawned. “Mr. Kane’s supposed to pick me and Mom up at two.”

“You’d better take a shower and head home. Can’t have you smelling like a dojo on your big day.” Dad sniffed and pulled a face. “Though it might convince the reporters to keep their distance.”

“Thanks. You coming to the show?”

“Sorry, I have an afternoon class. I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

Conryu nodded, not at all surprised that his father didn’t plan to join them. Outside the dojo Dad didn’t like dealing with people. Conryu didn’t know why, but Dad seldom went anywhere besides home and to the dojo.

He headed to the locker room while his father returned to meditating in front of the shrine. Conryu took a shower and swapped his sweaty black gi for jeans and a t-shirt. He checked his phone. Only twelve thirty; he had time to stop by the garage on his way home. He had to tell Mr. McShane that he wouldn’t be coming to work for him as soon as he’d first hoped. It seemed only right to tell him in person rather than letting him hear it on the news tonight.

Conryu paused to dry a drop of water from his forehead with the bottom of his shirt then slipped out the side door into the alley between the dojo and the pawn shop next door. A car whizzed by as he walked to the end of the alley and turned up the street to the shop. He stopped to look in one of the pawn shop’s windows. He’d found some valuable parts over the years, but alas not today. A shiny red electric guitar in the display caught his eye.

He’d never learned to play—too busy with martial arts—but he’d always wanted to. It seemed a funny thing for someone that hated attention to be interested in, but there you go.

It only took five minutes to walk from the dojo to the garage. Conryu centered himself as he approached the familiar two-bay structure. The right-hand door stood open and a huge gut covered in bib overalls stuck out from under a lift holding a sleek, green racing bike imported from the Empire. The rapid-fire click of a ratchet mingled with the acrid stink of spilled gas. Conryu sighed. What a great place.

“Mr. McShane?”

The ratchet fell silent and the gut jiggled as the master mechanic worked himself out from under the lift. A kind, grease-smeared face gradually appeared. The handlebar mustache twitched twice followed by an explosive sneeze.

“Conryu, my boy. Come to give this old man a hand?”

“Don’t I wish. Unfortunately, I have bad news.”

Mr. McShane heaved himself to his feet. “Your folks are okay, aren’t they?”

“They’re fine, it’s nothing like that. It’s just I won’t be able to come work for you as soon as I was hoping.” Conryu quickly filled him in on the gist of the situation. Mr. McShane listened in silence, his only reaction a slight widening of his eyes. It was nice to find someone besides Dad that didn’t freak out the moment they heard. “Anyway, I have to graduate from the academy before I can move on to get my mechanic’s license. There’s going to be an announcement today, but I wanted to tell you myself.”

“I appreciate that. Don’t worry. Sooner or later there’ll be a place for you here whenever you want it.”

“Thanks.” They shook hands and a weight lifted from Conryu’s chest. He really didn’t have to give up on his plans. If he was patient he could still do everything he wanted to. That thought buoyed him all the way to the press conference.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading Chapter 5. Click here to read Chapter 6.

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