The Fair Way

“See, look. It’s really simple.” Vorin brandished his sealing blade to demonstrate. In front of him, the light spirit, the shape reminiscent of an elongated golden rabbit, struggled to rise from the ground. Vorin’s currently manifested spirit, a fire spirit that took the form of a fox-like being, held it down. “The blade does all of the hard work.”

He approached the struggling pair. His fire spirit, Coro, had easily vanquished the feral light spirit. Vorin had chosen an easy target to demonstrate for the beautiful woman he had just met. The light spirit quivered when he knelt next to it. He plunged the sealing blade into its body. The spirit struggled violently, but Vorin kept his grip firm. After a few seconds, the spirit’s physical form dissolved.

Vorin held up the sealing blade so that the stranger could see. Inside the clear crystal of the blade, a bit of flowing golden light now mixed with the myriad of other colors within, like oils that repelled each other thoroughly.

“That seems violent,” Ana said. Well, she had told Vorin to call her Ana, but the way she phrased it made it sound like she had given him an alias. Vorin didn’t really care. Her dark skin and vibrate cloud of white hair looked nothing like the women Vorin knew. He had been drawn instantly to her beauty.
“Maybe a little,” Vorin said. “But it doesn’t hurt them.”

“Somehow I don’t believe you,” Ana said.

Vorin shrugged. “Well, maybe it hurts them a little, but their physical forms don’t matter to them as much as ours do to us.” He knelt down to scratch behind Coro’s ear. The spirit’s dense fur prickled his fingers with heat. “Right, Coro?”

Coro didn’t answer. Lesser spirits like him and the light spirit Vorin had just captured had an intelligence just barely above the animals they imitated. The could learn to follow simple instructions, without being bound and improved by a sealing blade. With one, their obedience and intelligence improved, as did their strength, over time.

“You literally stabbed it,” Ana said.

Vorin frowned. “I did. Have you really never seen this done before?” Ana had asked him to show her his blade in action, which he had at first taken for a euphemism. When she had assured him she was being literal, he had been glad to comply. He figured she was just making an excuse to spend some time with him outside of the tavern.

“Never seen anything like it,” Ana assured him.

“How is that possible, though?” Vorin said. “They have sealing blades on all the Isles.” In fact, capturing the minor spirits, training them, and pitting them against each other until they destroyed each other’s physical forms was the most popular sport in all of Orbisan. The practice actually helped the spirits become stronger, which in turn supported the rest of Orbisan’s life.

“Not where I’m from,” Ana said. “Like I told you, I’m not from around here.”

“Where are you from?” Vorin asked, tilting his head. “Is there an Isle where the blades aren’t in use? If so, I haven’t heard of it. I mean, they say there are Isles out in the Void we haven’t discovered yet, and there are stories about people on them… but I I doubt they’d be as cultured as yourself.”

Ana’s clothes weren’t of a style he recognized, though they did remind him of things he’d seen in the Isles centered around the Four Who Are One, where the people considered themselves more advanced and metropolitan than everyone else. There, it was much more common to see a woman in something resembling the tight-fitting trousers Ana wore.

“It’s not important where I’m from,” she said. She pointed at his blade. “Where do I get one of those?”

“You’d have to buy one,” he said, pulling his close to his body protectively. Sensing his mood, Coro stiffened.

“What do they cost?” she asked, setting her hands on her hips. “Are they expensive?”

“Very,” Vorin said. “My dad saved up for a very long time for this one. He left it to me when he passed.”

“I was afraid of that,” she said. She signed. “I have none of your money and no patience to earn it.”

“None of my money?” Vorin asked, confused. This night had turned into something entirely different than he’d imagined when he’d first seen a beautiful woman making eye contact with him over the top of her drink. “Look, you’re nice to look at, but I don’t have money to give away…”

“That’s not what I’m saying at all,” she said. “Just be quiet for a moment.”

Vorin’s mouth hung open. Ana stood there, eyes closed, hands still on her hips. Even with her eyes shut she gave Vorin the impression that she was staring into the distance, pondering something, or perhaps fighting an internal battle.

Then she moved, her hand slipping up into her jacket. From it she pulled something he didn’t recognize, like a small, rectangular metal box with a handle and glowing, concentric circles on the end that she now pointed at him. Though it was foreign to him, from its make he knew immediately it was a weapon.

Her hand twitched, pulling some kind of trigger. A pulse of light burst from the weapon, striking him in the head. A wave of nausea and weakness washed over him. His muscles went slack all at once. He fell to the ground. The sealing black sliced into his leg where he fell on it. Luckily, it couldn’t affect humans.

“Sorry for this,” she said. “I’ve been working long and hard trying to do things the fair way, and it just hasn’t been working out for me. I’m tired of it.” She knelt down and took his sealing black. Coro followed her with his eyes. “It’ll be best for you if you forget you ever met me.”

She walked away, leaving Vorin on the ground, wet from his blood and from his own excretions, which had flooded out of him when his muscles failed. Coro followed behind her.

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