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The Truth of the Fight

by NonAnalogue

NonAnalogue Unexpected philosophical complications concerning punching things.
"Mountains. It had to be mountains." Marlis Winter was not in what one would call a good mood as she started her hike up through the mountains of Becdeni. It had been not three days ago - a letter had arrived at the front door of her house in the Becdeni city of Rennardt.

"I wish to request a challenge," it had read, "so that we may finally see who comes out on top. I'll be waiting at the summit of Mount Carver. I'll be seeing you there." The letter had dissolved in her hands; then, to her consternation, it turned into several small ladybugs and flew away. It wasn't until after Marlis had found her thick boots, her heavy coat, and her favorite boxing gloves (hey, they were requesting a match, after all), and made her way out to the foothills that she realized which mountain was Mount Carver.

Becdeni was, by and large, a mountainous region. In fact, leading cartographers had taken to labeling Becdeni's maps with two sections: "mountains" and "everything else." The mountains provided the country with natural defenses against the trigger-happy Remina to the east and the prone-to-being-invaded Vandrio to the west. Mountains were not a new thing to Marlis. However, when she saw Mount Carver she let out a string of swears that would make even a goblin stop and say "Whoa now, let's watch our language."

Mount Carver was not named for someone named Carver. Mount Carver was named for what the jagged rocks and boulders that made up the mountain would do to you if you stepped in the wrong spot. Marlis could only thank the gods that she wasn't being asked to climb the taller Mount Killdeath - named for Jason Killdeath, the first person to scale it without losing three or more limbs.

Marlis sighed. There was nothing for it. Time to get climbing. There was a path in front of her, thankfully, but as she looked up, she noticed it stopped about a fourth of the way to the peak. She swatted a fly away from her head as she began her ascent.

The hike was, Marlis had to admit, not as bad as she was expecting. Her powerful legs, though more suited for darting around a boxing arena, helped make quick work of the mountain, and soon she was within a stone's throw of the summit. She pulled herself up to the plateau, immediately squinting as she came into direct view of the sun. She glanced around, holding her hand up above her head in a feeble attempt to keep the light from her eyes.

"So, you made it," a soft voice said from... somewhere. Marlis whirled around. With the sun the way it was, it was near impossible to get a read on where anyone was. But... ah, there it was. A silhouetted shape, sitting on a rock. It rose to standing, the slight figure blocking just a little of the light. The figure approached her. It seemed to be wearing a dress, one that whipped around the figure's ankles in the breeze that blew across the plateau. As it got closer, Marlis could make out more details: the figure was a woman matching Marlis' not inconsiderable height. She wore a pale green dress that didn't look at all conducive to climbing a mountain. Her pitch black hair waved in the wind behind her. The woman cocked her head, looking Marlis over.

"Yeah." Marlis didn't quite have the drive to deal with someone being coy at that point. To be more specific, she rarely ever had the drive to deal with someone being coy, but, on her list of when she was able to deal with it, 'after climbing a mountain' hovered near the bottom, right around 'while escaping a collapsing mine shaft' and 'after being punched in the face twenty-seven times by a reigning boxing champ.' "I made it," she continued. "Now who are you, exactly?"

The woman said nothing; instead, she just pursed her lips. She tilted her head this way and that, keeping her eyes fixed on Marlis. "Are you some sort of new recruit, or...?"

"New recruit?" Marlis scowled. "Lady, I've been boxing on the professional circuit for three years now, and--"

"Boxing?" the woman asked, sounding genuinely curious.

"Yes?" Marlis answered after a pause. She was worried. This conversation had gotten away from her somewhere along the line, and she had the sneaking suspicion that the other woman didn't really get it either. "I'm a boxer. You requested a match. That's what happens."

The woman open and closed her mouth a few times, bringing to the forefront of Marlis' mind the image of a carp she saw in a restaurant once. "Wait, you... You don't know what I'm talking about, do you? You should have a sun emblem somewhere, right?"

Marlis fixed her with a flat look. "I'm getting the feeling that I'm not who you wanted to see."

The woman pulled a small pad of paper, bound with twine, from a pocket and flipped through it. "But aren't you the resident of the third house on Falconkeeper Lane...?" she asked, a hint of desperation entering her voice.


"So you're Kilian Wallace?"

"Lady, do I look like a Kilian? Kilian lives in the second house. He's my neighbor. Real quiet guy when he's there, which is, like, never."

The woman groaned. "I got the wrong house again... I'm so sorry, miss...?"

Marlis crossed her arms. "Marlis Winter. 'Again?'"

"I'll just say that Kilian is proving elusive," the lady mumbled. "You can call me Lihi. I'll, er, get you back home. I'm sorry for the trouble."

"Well, at least I can say I climbed a mountain today," Marlis said under her breath as Lihi clasped her hands together. "That's something. Something obnoxious, but still something."

"...thank you, oh Thale, for lending me your power," Lihi finished mumbling. There was a puff of smoke between the two women, then Marlis felt the familiar effects of teleportation.

If you've never experienced teleportation, you should go and sit on a swing - the kind at a playground. Once there, spin in the swing as much as you can in one direction, until the chains are all twisted up, then let it go and just spin, spin, spin for ages. The mind-bending dizziness that results isn't like teleportation at all, but it puts you in the proper state of mind to understand the following sentence:

Teleportation is very similar to, or rather, almost exactly opposite of, which is to say, nearly unlike being drawn through a straw. The dizziness helps obscure the fundamental uselessness of this statement.

When Marlis opened her eyes, she was somewhat pleased to find that, among other things, all of her limbs were still intact. (Teleportation had long since become a common business, and the chain 'Honest John's Legitimate Teleportation' was famous for their ubiquitous signs reading "Don't move during the teleportation, as arriving at your destination less an arm often offends.")

Lihi was standing beside her, looking past her house at the one next door. "That one?" she asked.

Marlis nodded. "Good luck," she said. "Kilian's never home--"

At that point, she was interrupted by what sounded like a cross between a roar and a wave cresting, which really has to be heard to understand how weird that is. The ground began shaking, and from the mists that normally collected in the morning hours in Rennardt lumbered a... well, it looked like a hand. Admittedly, it was a hand that easily dwarfed Marlis and Lihi, and it was a hand with piercing, glowing red pinpricks of light for eyes, and it was a hand that burbled and splashed with every step, but it was a hand.

"Oh dear," Lihi said.

"Oh dear?!" Marlis turned on her. "A slime turns up in town, miles from where they normally live, and the best you can put up is 'oh dear?!'"

"Yes, I think that about covers it." Lihi looked at the slime thoughtfully. "It must have gotten caught in the teleportation spell. I suppose I'll have to..." She trailed off when it became apparent that Marlis was no longer listening to her and, in fact, was no longer next to her.

Marlis bolted at the slime, quickly donning and lacing her gloves as she ran. It was a slow beast, so that meant, in theory, that her normal strategy of out-evading her foe and wearing them down would work. She clenched her fists inside her gloves and smiled as they began to crackle with electricity.

Boxing, in Ennen, is unusual even among the more extreme sports, mostly due to its 'anything goes' nature. So long as the main form of contact is punching, the rules of boxing pretty much let the combatants get away with anything. Marlis, for example, was a prodigy in elemental magic, and she prided herself on her ability to switch it up between flaming jabs, electric crosses, icy hooks, and wind-blasting uppercuts.

This helped not at all when Marlis' punch drove her arm into the slime up to her elbow. She stumbled backward, pulling her arm out with a sickening 'squelch.' "Okay, so that didn't work," she muttered. A proponent of the 'if it doesn't work, try it again with slight changes' strategy, she crouched and delivered an uppercut, her fist's speed boosted by a centralized gust of wind. This worked about as well as one might expect, which is to say not at all.

"That's enough, Marlis," Lihi said. "Let me handle this." She laced her fingers together and closed her eyes, beginning to say a few words under her breath. The mist in the streets cleared and a beam of light appeared in the sky, focusing on the slime. Then, as if it was aware of exactly how clichéd it looked, the beam of light disappeared, and with it, so did the slime.

Marlis blinked. That had been suitably more anti-climactic than she was expecting. "What did you do?"

"I just used the truth," Lihi said with a smile. "The truth was that the slime didn't belong here. The truth is a powerful tool, Marlis. Remember that when you are surrounded by secrets and lies."

"Um. Okay. That's a little ominous." Marlis huffed and started undoing the laces on her gloves. "What do you mean by that?"

Lihi was gone.

"Oh. Well. Great."