Kyle saw the kick coming and moved to block it by sweeping Jun’s leg to the side with his arm. “Dùnpái,” he called letting the word harden his diaphragm and tighten his entire core. He tried to release magic into the spell he expected to result. Only there wasn’t any spell. His arm skidded along Jun’s leg without slowing it, and Jun’s foot landed solidly in the middle of the pad Kyle was wearing on his chest.
Kyle assumed the kick wasn’t nearly as strong as Jun could have managed, and Jun was wearing squishy pads over his feet. Consequently, it only lifted Kyle slightly off his feet and tossed him a little bit backwards. That was more than enough to make him lose his balance. The ceiling of the empty Dojo briefly rolled across Kyle’s vision and then he landed on his back with a jarring thump. He was shaking his head to clear it when he noticed something disturbing; Jun was still moving with the smooth rolling stride he used when he was sparring.
It only took a couple of seconds for Jun to get over to Kyle’s head and raise his foot for a stomp. Fortunately, that was enough time for Kyle to throw a pushing block at Jun’s ankle and call out “Dùn!”
This time the magic worked. Kyle felt power leave him in a rush and a translucent green shield appeared. It was a meter wide, gently curved, and centered where his hand had been. It only lasted about 5 seconds. The duration of the shield depended on how much power went into it. Since it was a simple and useful, spell it was always brief. It was also a bit random because there was no way of predicting exactly how many people had cast it just then. The shield would block anything, including magic, but it needed careful timing. Kyle used it’s brief existence to roll out of the way and into a defensive crouch. Fortunately, Jun seemed to have relaxed.
“I think you are now less likely to be killed when using spells than when you aren’t. By a little bit, say two percent.”
Kyle took that as a hint that they were, for the moment, done practicing. He released the last of his magic to see how his head was feeling. It was better than he’d feared. There was a hint of pain behind his eyes, but he had at least another thirty minutes burning magic at the same rate before it would feel like someone was trying to crack his skull. “Now what?”
“What do you have time for? I should train you on combat with these spells in place for at least a couple of months. You should certainly spar against someone who knows magic while I correct your form. Do you have time for that?”
Master Shen’s face was serious so Kyle answered him seriously. “I might have time for it after this is all done.”
“You might have less need for it after this is all done. Since you’re on a schedule, I suppose this is when we storm the castle.”
Kyle had, earlier, explained he intended to get back into his store, but was worried it might be watched. Now he caught the significance of the pronoun. “You can’t go! It’s way too dangerous.”
“If we’re basing this on ability to deal with danger you shouldn’t go.”
“It’s not your fight.”
“I believe I gave an impassioned speech about helping people fight back not three hours ago.” The serious look was back on Shen’s face.
“I won’t turn down help if you’re willing. Do you want to at least call the cops, see if I’m a fugitive?”
“Better to pretend I didn’t know. I’ll tell them you just see scary types around your office, call up this ninja you know. I haven’t seen any wanted posters at the post office so I help knowing nothing of your evil ways. I don’t think I’ll get charged with anything.”
* * *
They discussed their strategy for getting into Kyle’s office and decided that there basically wasn’t any to be had. The office had two doors, a main entrance street side and an employee entrance to the back. The main entrance could be easily watched because there was an expanse of empty parking lot in front of it, then a road, then a bunch of other commercial buildings with landscaping, parking lots, and other features. Anyone who was interested in watching the front door could park somewhere within half a mile and simply sit watching it. Neither of them would be able to spot a stakeout in progress unless they knew who to look for and cased the area very thoroughly.
The rear door would have been harder to watch in person. The layout there was fairly typical for a strip mall. A disused street ran behind the building containing dumpsters, loading docks, and employee entrances. There was a big wall behind the street and a neighborhood behind that. A car parked to watch that section of the street probably would have been fairly obvious given the small space it would have had to hide in. But it would be possible to catch the entire sweep of stores with a single camera and a few 10 dollar motion detectors could be trained on each door. The watcher wouldn’t have to be in sight.
So odds were, if they went through either of the doors to Kyle’s shop they were going to be seen if there was anyone looking for them.
Jun, who Kyle was learning was every bit as crazy as he had always seemed, suggested they go in to one of the other stores then cut through the wall. That way, he hoped, any watcher would assume they were unrelated to Kyle. He thought a disguise would aid in that.
Kyle pointed out that first, he didn’t know if the walls between his place and the other stores were anything that could be easily cut, and second, the other stores were likely to have some sort of security that would be tripped if someone were to break in during the middle of the night and start cutting holes in the walls. In that case, they’d be dealing with the cops in addition to whatever guards Thomas had placed.
In the end, they debated front door vs back door for a little while and settled on the front door. It was only fractionally more likely to be watched than the back, if at all, and it would be easier to drive out of the front then the back if they were being chased.
The one small bit of strategy they did apply was leaving Jun in the car. He had Kyle’s phone number and the description of the bounty hunters who had been after if him so he was left as the lookout and getaway driver while Kyle went in to retrieve a couple of things. Beyond that they parked right in front of the building. Kyle filled himself with energy until his eyes glowed like little amber flashlights, then didn’t even slouch when he got out of the car and let himself into his ill fated business. He tried not to jump at the normal noises of the city as he unlocked the door and stepped inside and he thought he mostly managed.