I've got a new internet card so I can occasionally jump back online. After this latest incident I have the feeling that I'll need to now and then.
I did some looking into that nursery rhyme that the Cold Boy used. Apparently it has to do with magpies and luck/misfortune regarding the number of them that you see.
I reached another city. Spent the night there. Gargoyle, one of the bloggers I followed, suggested that parking ramps make good shelters. He's gone now. I don't know whether that means his advice didn't work or what but it was still worth trying. I got up to the top level and just stood there, watching the city below me. Cities are really different then towns and the countryside. In the country I usually like looking at everything above me, in towns I watch what's around me, and in cities, I like to look at what's below me.
"Nice night, isn't it?" came a voice from beside me. A girl was leaning against the wall of the ramp beside me. She had darker skin (I think she was Hispanic but I couldn't tell) and tangled black hair, with a bright, silvery streak dyed into it. She wore jeans and a white T-shirt (the logo was too faded to read) and a black leather jacket over the top. She grinned at me, and I couldn't help but think that she was kind of cute.
"Yeah, I guess it is," I said.
She slumped over it, letting her arms dangle over the edge. "So, what brings you up here?"
"No real reason. Just passing through. Didn't have money to spend on a hotel."
She nodded and made a little humming noise. "Bet you're one of those runner guys."
"You know, running from that tall guy in the suit." She beamed at me when she saw the look on my face. "I've met my fair share of runners. I'm just good at noticing the signs." She stuck her hand out for me to shake. "Magpie."
"The Wanderer. Call me Kenny."
"Nice to meet you, Kenny." She grinned again. "It's a shame I have to kill you now."
The words didn't sink in until after I had dodged the swing she took at me. I instantly went into the defensive with Lily as she started laughing, a sort of shrieking cackle. "Oh, man! The look on your face!" She started throwing a few jabs at me. "Come on, fight back!" I'm really not the kind of guy who hits a girl but I didn't have a choice in this case. It was self-defense. I started using a few of the offensive techniques I had learned from Raggedyman.
She didn't do a very good job of blocking them. In fact, I barely had to try at all to land any hits on her. Then she jumped back and ran along the ramp a little, grabbing a staff that someone (I'm guessing her?) had left there.
"Okay, not too bad...but this'll get you fighting at full strength!" She started using the staff, clumsily at first, but as we went on, her offensive and defensive fighting both got better. I noticed her sticking her tongue out against the corner of her lip, and her eyes kept flitting back and forth, taking in everything I was doing. Of course concentration is important in battle, but it was a type of concentration that was a bit different than I expected.
That's when I realized what it was. She was watching my fighting patterns and committing them to memory, then copying them herself. She was using my own techniques against me.
"Copycat!" I yelled.
"No need to be so childish about it." She gave that cackle again. "It's not like it's unfair. I'm actually at a disadvantage since I'm learning as I go." She smacked the butt end of her staff into my shin. "It's not my fault that I'm just better than you."
As the pain shot through my leg, I remembered something Raggedy had told me in a training session. "You guard your upper body pretty well, but you tend to forget about your lower body and leave it vulnerable." That was all I needed. I was fighting someone using my own techniques. That meant I was also fighting someone who would share my weaknesses. I swept my staff low, knocking her off her feet. She landed hard on her back and dropped the staff upon impact.
"I'm not going to kill you," I said as I pressed the tip of my staff against her neck, applying just enough pressure as a warning to keep her from moving.
"I know." She coughed. "Look, you've beaten me. I've lost. Just...let me go. I'll leave you alone. For tonight at least."
"How do I know I can trust you?"
"If you're not going to kill me, you're going to have to move again at some point. If I was going to attack you again, I could just wait until then."
"Yeah? I've beat you before. I can do it again."
"Then why are you worried? Look, Kenny, I'm not going to hurt you. This was...let's call it a test. A little scouting expedition to get an idea of how you fight. I'm gathering information."
"The rest of the Ten Masks. There's nine more, and a lot of them are stronger than me." She grinned. "At least, that's what they'd tell you. Just between you and me I still think I'm the strongest."
"Ten Masks? You're not wearing a mask."
She rolled her eyes. "It's just a name, moron. It's a symbolic thing. Now let me up."
I pulled the staff away hesitantly. She sat up and held her arms up in a gesture of surrender. "Listen, Kenny, you should probably leave now. No offense since you seem like a cool guy and all, but I really shouldn't be hanging around you. You know, for obvious reasons."
I nodded and ran, sparing a glance back. She hadn't made a move for her staff, or even towards me. She had walked back up to the edge of the parking ramp and just stood there, staring back over the edge.