106: Jack

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Jack worked on the exercise while reflecting on how strange for him to be doing something like this. Never mind his life-long grudging reliance on the sixth sense that had now turned out to be real. He had never really accepted the idea of magic, or whatever these people insisted on calling it. These ‘flux arts’ would have been eye-rolling nonsense to himself of only a few days ago.

As he continued to stand, visualizing as best as he could do something that he could call ‘visualizing’, Simkit move away a few paces and began some tai chi -like stretching exercises, suitably modified into a form that made sense for a person with four legs.

He was trying his best not to be distracted by it, but it was difficult not to occasionally be drawn to that scene. It sounded odd to describe something as non-human as a centauress as attractive, but she was in fact a strikingly attractive woman, and the grace with which she was moving steadily through her exercises only underscored that fact.

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It became clear that her lower body musculature was not the same as a horse. She could lean and move in ways he had never seen any horse move, placing her feet independently into spread stances and crouches that gave proof of some very differently-made joints in her legs.

Yet another mammary gyration grabbed at his eyes. Embarrassed, he forced his mind back to his own exercise. He was way the hell too old to be staring at female anatomy like some horny teenager.

He had unconsciously dropped his hand, and was surprised to discover that the dot had moved downward in unison with it. He raised his hand once more and it came up with it, as if it were attached, although he saw no means of attachment. It simply seemed to have a definition of being that point which was exactly a certain distance out from his palm.

Was that how it worked? Were her ‘arts’ able to create something with a characteristic like that? He moved his hand in a circle and found the point to be behave exactly the same. Curious, he reached with his other hand to see if he could touch it, but…

“Stop!” Simkit called out, in a sharp tone. He moved his hand away.

“Was that dangerous?” he asked.

She had not ended her kata, or whatever she would call the exercise she was doing, but she spoke normally to answer the question.

“Not dangerous, but it would have disturbed the form, had you crossed it into the gate of your left hand. The worst that should have happened was that I would have to reconstruct it for you.”

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He nodded, and went back to doing the exercise properly.

She began working at higher speed now, going through what were obviously not tai chi but actual unarmed combat forms. Some of them looked pretty lethal; he imagined the sudden spin she did in order to deliver a hind-leg kick would have been a dozen times the strength of a Muay Thai fighter’s strike. It was, after all, being delivered by a physique with the mass and power of a horse.

It was terrifying to behold, frankly. And the frontal and side strikes also delivered unquestionable lethality.

Then the power began increasing. His flux sense began lighting up with the perceptions of invisible waves and blasts of supernatural power coming from her limbs. Each kick or punch sent out a bit more energy. Some strikes featured sheets of light and balls of fire, like some kind of fantasy martial arts flick.

It had proceeded to frightening power levels before she suddenly stopped and looked at him. Although her face and tattooed arms glistened with sweat and her flanks were flecked with lather, she stared down at him with placid, steady eyes.

“Guardsman, show me your exercise.”

For a moment, he wondered what she meant. Then he realized he had stopped and begun staring at her again.

Slightly embarrassed, he looked at his hand as he held it up and restarted.

“Without stopping, close your eyes or look away from your hand.”

He closed them and continued. A stream of energy flowing from that point on his hand to the point in mid-air. A ball of energy, flowing out of the point. Rinse. Repeat.

“Does one of the two work better for you?”

“Yeah. Probably the ball of energy.”

“Concentrate on that. Keep the energy in the form tightly controlled as you imagine it. It is a ball containing the energy, not a ball radiating it.”

He did his best to imagine it. A softball containing flame. Somehow he could see that in his mind.

The image she had suggested, as a ball containing it, like some kind of container, he couldn’t see it, but as a spinning ball of fire, the flames somehow chasing each other as they rotated… he could see it clearly. With a shock, he  realized why, too.

He could remember his ‘mother’ wielding it as a weapon.

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