How to Take Down Blackmailing Spirits
by Kent Lee


"Hi. I'm Scott Summers, from the World Examiner," I lie smoothly to the man who opens the front porch. I stick my foot in so he can't slam the door on me. This is the usual reaction to being purported from one of the largest tabloids in the business. He makes an admirable effort of trying to cut my foot off.

"I'm here about that report farmers in upstate Baker, NY here made, about a red-haired midget wearing a bronze mask threatening to destroy the crops through weather control," I tell him through the crack that is open.

"Go away!" This is accompanied by various attempted bashings of assorted implements ranging from iron pots to wooden spoons. Being a Saturday, today wasn't a school day, so I could come up here and be bashed by farmers.

"Just a few moments of your time. I understand that the NY Farmers' Association filed for protection?" I asked him. I have a pen and paper pad with me. I always do, it's useful. Same for my Swiss army knife.

"Get out of here! If you want that midget so badly, go to Haly Road. There's supposed to be where that extortionist collects his offerings! I hope he eats you!" I had used one of my powers to alter myself to a brown-haired, blue-eyed young man with red sunglasses. That meant Monkey was one of my four powers allotted for the day, and currently one of my two inactive powers. The spirit would definitely sense my presence when I arrived.

"Thank you very much. You've been a great help." I offer to the farmer. I take my foot out, and he slams the door in my face. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have offered my credentials from being a tabloid newspaper.

******

I scout out the area. I focus on the Rabbit, one of the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. I also focus on Tiger, so I could bring another power into play. This one was the Dog. My Dog power is different from my aunt's who had passed the powers onto me. She had been immune to energy of all sorts, but I was immune to bullets and projectiles. I choose speed and bulletproofing as my active powers. My inactive power was shapeshifting at the moment, so I could have one more inactive power and my powers would be set for the day.

A side effect of using my powers is that supernatural spirits, particularly Oriental ones know I'm coming. There really wasn't any hope of catching the lesser spirit by surprise. I didn't think it'd be sent by any of the officials of Heaven's Kingdom either. It's rather rare, and then it gets loose. Besides, if it had been, my aunt wouldn't have sent me here.

My aunt is always saying knowledge was power. So I review what I know about this type of spirit. It was red-haired, and bronze-faced. Well, we weren't anywhere near water. It had appeared during the daytime, around noon or so. It claimed to be able to control the weather. There was only one sort of spirit that could really fit that kind of description. Even this place was its normal habitat. How'd it get here anyway? If my hypothesis was correct, I'd have to stay away from its hands and weapons.

Due to my speed, I reach the shrine in about ten minutes or so. The bulletproofing is still in place. Some spirits move with the times, and bring guns to places. I don't really have any idea how to acquire one. New York has the strictest gun control laws in the states. The easiest way would be go to Virginia and go buy one there, but I'm slightly directionally-impaired when out of New York. The state, not the city. Since this type of spirit could usually become invisible at will, I'd have to use the power of the Sheep. Stop laughing, it's quite a useful power. It's astral sight. That differed from my aunt's power as usual. I can sense auras of living and supernatural, and magic. I let bulletproofing go inactive, and combine speed with astral sight. A quick whirl around pinpoints the, now known as evil, spirit's location. Idiot, idiot, idiot! I let it get the drop on me! I dodged, my enhanced speed lending its power. The iron rod it whirls behind me strikes the spot I would have been, if I hadn't scanned astrally. It fades into sight.

"Aren't you warriors just legends?" it asks.

"Yeah, well, humans don't believe in you guys anymore, either." I hurl back. The spirit is definitely more skilled than I am in combat. The whirling stick is a French technique, le moullinet or something like that. It's quite advanced, and the object is to get it to whirl faster than the other guy's stick. I didn't have a stick. In fact, I try not to get beat up at all. It fades back out of sight. This particular spirit could fade in and out of sight at will. I was going to have to keep astral sight on at all times. If the spirit had a gun, I hoped I could dodge it. My four powers were set for the day. Healing wouldn't work if I got hurt. It only works if I select it. I could get killed today. Marvelous, I'd be a trophy for a spirit that Chinese villagers knew how to get rid of, even if only temporarily. Its main known attack was a form of dehydration. It withered living things. The spirit wasn't idle during this mythology knowledge review. It charged. I appeared to flicker to one side. Those are the benefits of superspeed.

The main one of disposing of the spirit's threat is to get a Taoist priest to counter the spell, or slay it. The way Chinese villagers used to do it was to appease it with regular offerings of food. It usually remained in the area after that. I speed up my thought processes. I had speed as my main offensive tactic. Bulletproofing is for defense. Astral sight, and shapeshifting are for reconnaissance and infiltration. I take a trick I remember my aunt teaching me. I make a superspeed attack from all directions.

Now, normally, spirits are invulnerable to normal weapons. Being infused with the power of the Chinese animals guarantees you can hit them and damage them. Of course, it's the damage of punches, but you can pile on a lot of punches in a whirlwind attack. The iron rod whips futilely through the air, as it strikes either too early or too late to land an effective blow. Of course, any blow it lands will be effective. After something like forty punches, it finally dissipates. My knuckles are scraped raw and bleeding. It's not as easy as people in the movies would like you to believe. The shrine is still set up. I take a look in it. It's the standard sort of shrine, with money, food, and other offerings placed in front. I hesitate. The right thing to do would be to return the offerings right? The spirit's been destroyed until the Jade Emperor or one of the officials in Heaven's Kingdom sends it back on a mission or a mage with enough knowledge summons it back. The road was deserted because of the spirit's presence. I decided that both food and money could be traced. The money I would return to the Farmer's Association. I donated the food to one of those charities. I wear gloves, provided by shapeshifting clothes the whole time. I then realize something. I was fighting a spirit, so I hadn't been reduced to four powers like I thought! Too late now, although healing had kicked in. My knuckles were fine. Not a moment too soon, it displaced speed at the moment the spirit dissipated.

******

I mail the money to the Farmer's Association. I mail it from Baker, NY. I don't need headaches from people tracing the mail back to my house. I hope I would be in time for Oliver Cortez's fencing match. He's a great fencer. He brought home the champion fencing titles for our high school, and now he might do the same for our college.

I run back, carefully making sure my shoes don't fall apart from the speed I'm running at, and using a few simple tactics to shake any shadows I might have. The match is at our college at six. I make it back at five. I go into the bathroom, checking to see it's empty, and my form shifts to my real appearance. I'm a typical Oriental with black hair and black eyes. I stick the small pad of paper and pen in my pocket. My Swiss army knife attaches to one of the ears where belts slide through. I walk back out.

"Hey Oliver. Good luck. I'll be rooting for you." I hear Samantha calling out cheerily from the stands. I slide in beside her.

"Hey, Derek. I thought you would have been here earlier." She smiles at me.

"I'm an hour early, and you think I'm late?" I tease. I look around. The crowd's filled to the rafters with fans eager to see today's duel between Cortez and some other guy who's supposed to be pretty good. I look at the program I picked up on the way in. My powers are all inactive, so I should have a normal aura. No worrying about being attacked by black magicians, weird robots or supernatural spirits.

"It's an exhibition match for charity. The considered two top contenders for the college title." Samantha replies.

"Why the full crowd?" I ask. I don't mind at all.

"Two graduates of our school appearing later. The actor Chris Freeman and Michelle Kaiouh." I was taken aback a little at that. Chris Freeman and Michelle Kaiouh were famous movie stars.

"They want to shoot parts of a movie in this building." Samantha explained to me. Now, I got why the rafters were so crowded. They all wanted to see the movie stars later.

"Good crowd for Oliver's match," I decide. I get an idea. I just hope it's not the wrong one. I get up, and bring a couple of sodas and some hot dogs. The vendors must be having a bonanza. I pay for it, with my own money.

"You hungry?" I ask Samantha. When she nods, I hand her a hot dog, and a soda. This feels more like a baseball game than anything else.

Finally, the match begins. I study the techniques being used. The match is with the swords that as long as you hit a spot, the green light goes on. I think it's sabers. The other guy is very good. Oliver's just better. His coordination, split-second reflexes, and hours of practice serve him in good stead. Oliver wins 4-1. In the meantime, I got to sit the entire hour next to Samantha. When the match is over, Samantha and I go to congratulate him.

"It's seven o'clock. You guys want to stay here and look at the movie stars?" I ask.

"Nah. I got three tickets for a private party tomorrow." Oliver flourishes the tickets. He makes a great show of pretending to think. "Now, which two people should I give the tickets too? "

Samantha and I chase him around the room, while he keeps laughing.

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