What’s a bit of harmless fun?~Jeph Michealson
Hey there! I’m Jeph, and I’m a guild mage. Not just a guild mage, I’m actually on the Council. I’m also kind of a dick.
What? Evander already told you about that? Figures.
He’s not wrong. I just can’t help but be…creative with the fun I have at the guild. I get so bored listening to the Guildmaster drone on and on about things that need to be done, rules that need to be enforced, so on and so forth. Even the paperwork is hell on Earth.
I also like stirring the shit-pot.
I have the most fun when I’m undermining Phantom, but he’s away on a mission today. Oh well. I grab the water gun I purchased last night in preparation for today’s shenanigans. Someone has to teach Evander it’s rude to slander his superior’s good name.
I wrap my shadows around myself, hiding within them as I leave my office and stalk the halls. Then I lock onto Evander’s energy signature and find him with ease. I glance in the window of the classroom and find him seated at a desk, head bent over the page of whatever he’s working on. He’s writing pretty quickly, so it must be something good. I’m curious, but I’m more interested in seeing him riled up. He’s just too entertaining—so quick to anger.
It’s time to strike.
I pump the pressure on the squirt gun. I only have one shot at this. As soon as I open the door, Evander will know I’m here, and I don’t want him running away before I can have my fun. He’s scarily fast, and while I could probably keep pace if it came down to a chase, it won’t be nearly as fun if he’s fending off my attacks. Well, maybe—I do get a thrill out of a good chase.
The pressure on the squirt gun is the strongest it’s going to get. I wrap my magic around the door handle and use magery to push it open as silently as possible—just a crack, one large enough to put the barrel of the gun through and…
I douse the front of his shirt, grinning from ear-to-ear as he jumps up in alarm, confusion on his face. The confusion is quickly replaced by irritation, settling into anger when he hears me laughing.
“Jeph! You asshat!”
I turn on my heel and run.
I’m bored—again. Nothing exciting ever happens at the guild anymore. Evander is still upset that I sprayed him down last month. I haven’t bothered to apologize, so it’s little wonder why. That’s okay; I don’t plan to say sorry.
It’s probably wrong of me, but I really feel like causing more trouble—and he presents the perfect target. I’ve already got an idea forming in my mind, and it’s going to drive him up a wall. Is it bad that I enjoy annoying him? His reactions are just so entertaining…
I hide in my shadows, stalking the halls of the guild. I pass Hunters and Elite Hunters, but they don’t know I’m here—the perks of having shadows at my beck and call. I may like mischief, but I hate talking to people. I’d sooner hunt rogues than make small talk with a colleague.
When I reach the classroom Evander is hiding in, I cast a glamour on the door so he doesn’t see it open. As far as he knows, it’s still closed. Grinning to myself, I stay hidden as I cross the room. Then, being the unholy terror that I am, I lay across the table he’s working on, only unraveling my shadows when my head lays on his notebook.
“Jesus!” he shouts, looking like he might stab me with his pen. It would be entertaining if he did.
I yawn, long and loud, putting my arms behind my head. “Whatcha doing?”
He’s forced to sit back in his chair now that my elbow is invading his space. “Working—unlike you.”
“I never work,” I tell him honestly. “Well, I hunt on occasion, but I seldom get assignments these days…not that I wouldn’t mind a good game of cat and mouse.” The thought of tracking down a powerful rogue gives me a thrill. They’re always so much more fun when they’re feisty.
“You’re demented,” he says, lip curling in disgust.
I grin. “How kind of you to notice.”
“Can I help you?” he snaps, pulling the notebook out from under my head.
He stares at me, jaw clenching. “I’m not playing this game again.”
“I’m not going to go away,” I say.
“Who’s there?” he finally asks through gritted teeth.
“No one knows.”
I smirk at my own bad sense of humor. When I was thirteen, I suffered some traumatic event—at least, that’s what we all assume because I don’t remember—that gave me amnesia. As in, nearly nine years later, I still don’t remember the first thirteen years of my life.
Evander blinks. “Is that supposed to be funny?”
“I thought it was.” I shrug. “Knock-knock.”
He heaves a sigh. “Who’s there?”
“No,” he growls. “I’m not listening to that one again.”
“But you let me get away with it for two minutes last time,” I pout.
“You tricked me!”
“It’s not my fault you didn’t know that one.” My grin is slow. “It was entertaining, though.”
“You’re sick,” he says, putting his notebook on his knee and writing something down.
I prop myself up on my elbow, trying to spy his notes. “What’re you writing?”
“None of your business!” He snaps the notebook closed.
“Are you serious?” His tone is exasperated.
“As the grave.”
“Fine!” he shouts, hands balling into fists. “Who’s there?”
“Boo,” I say, adrenaline pumping in anticipation.
“Don’t cry, Evander, it’s just a joke.” Laughing, I’m up and across the room before his pen penetrates the desk—right where my arm had been. “Harsh,” I say, tutting. “Now, stop dallying and get to work.”
I feel his glare on my back as I exit the classroom.
I’m in the arena-sized gym at the guild, bored to tears. I’ve spent all afternoon working with various equipment, trying to kill time and burn energy, but neither seems to be happening. I hate when I don’t have an active assignment because I’m stuck at the guild, but there’s nothing to do. My mind is so restless, I had to leave the archives a while ago. I couldn’t focus on anything I read. Now, I’m sitting on this damn bench press, contemplating hanging myself from the ceiling by my toes, just to scare the piss out of the next poor sap unfortunate enough to come in here.
It would be funny for all of ten seconds…hardly worth the effort.
Heaving a sigh, I get up and grab my towel, dabbing at my sweat-slick forehead on my way to the door. I smell like a gym bag and need a shower. After that, I think I might be able to focus if I try the archives again. There’s a dark-magic spellbook calling my name…not that I would ever use any of those spells or rituals…I just like knowing how to counteract things since, in my line of work, it could mean the difference between life or death.
Rogue Casters don’t fight fair—but that’s okay; neither do I.
Before I can make it out the door, Evander nearly collides with me on his way in. He stops to apologize before he realizes he’s talking to me. Then his apology dies on his lips, his whole face falling.
I press my lips together to hide my smile. It pleases my dark little heart that I bother him so much. I should be ashamed.
He turns on his heel to walk away, but I grab the back of his shirt before he can speed away—and I mean that literally. Evander is crazy-fast…
“Where are you running off to?” I ask, his shirt straining against my grip. If he doesn’t stop, it’s going to rip. I’m almost curious to see if he’s really that desperate to not talk to me.
He stops, taking a deep breath before letting it out and turning to me. “Errands,” he mumbles, looking everywhere but at me.
Instead of calling him on the lie, I grin. “Well, while you’re here…” I glance at the vacant sparring mat in the far corner of the room. “It’s been a while since we’ve worked on your form.”
“No, thanks,” he says, looking ready to bolt.
“You mean…you don’t want a chance to slug me in the face?”
He purses his lips, looking from me to the mat, from the mat to the door, and then back at me again.
Caught your attention, did I? I muse to myself. We both know he wants to hit me.
“I’ve got a few minutes,” he says casually, shrugging.
Truth be told, Evander’s a skilled fighter. I taught him everything he knows, after all. He’s never actually taken me in a fight, but he’s gotten close. It’s been a while since we’ve sparred…I wonder if he’ll win.
“That’s a good little Hunter,” I say, patting him on the back hard enough that he stumbles.
Evander catches his footing as I wrap an arm around his shoulders, giving him a noogie and messing up his perfect sandy-brown hair. He grits his teeth so loudly, I can hear them grinding together.
Before we step on the mat, we take off our shoes. Sparring is all fun and games…until someone takes the hard sole of a combat boot to the face. In a battle, that’s an asset; at the guild, it’s just cruelty. While I may enjoy terrorizing the poor kid, I don’t actually enjoy hurting him.
Once we reach the center of the mat, Evander asks, “What rules are we using today?”
“Three-second pin, no tap-outs.”
“Obviously.” He rolls his eyes. “Three seconds, though? You’re making this too easy.”
I like his attitude, but three seconds is a lot more time than he’s pretending it is. When magery allows us the ability to move two to three times our normal speed, three seconds is a lifetime to keep someone on the mat. Especially when they’re as fast as Evander. Especially when they’re as strong and as cunning as I am.
I lock eyes with his hazel ones. “Cocky today, are we?”
For the first time in a while, he grins at me. It’s feral, but it’s something. “Even if I don’t win, I still win. You did invite me to punch you in the face.”
I return his smile. “I’m so nice, I’ll even let you have the first hit.”
“You? Nice?” He snorts. “Hardly. But I won’t turn down the offer.”
“No crotch-shots.” I shrug. “I figure I might as well set limits.”
He nods and, without any warning, comes at me so fast, he’s practically a blur, his fist cracking against my jaw.
I fly backward, barely catching myself with my magic before my head smacks the mat. Damn, that boy’s right hook has only gotten better. Impressed, I get to my feet, rubbing my throbbing jaw, the taste of blood filling my mouth.
“Good one,” I say, cracking my knuckles. “Let the games begin.”
Panting, Evander and I lay sprawled on the sparring mat, drenched in sweat and covered in bruises and blood. Neither of us held back during our match, and it dragged on for what had to of been an hour or more. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to push myself this hard, and quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Not that I would ever tell him that.
I sit up, barely withholding a grunt. Evander hasn’t opened his eyes yet and laying there must be suffocating with the blood draining down his throat. I might have broken his nose. That’s fine; he broke one of my ribs.
I nudge his clave with the side of my foot. “Sit up before you drown.”
Shakily, he lifts his hand, flipping me the bird.
The corner of my lips twitch up, and I reach for him, hissing because I forget about my damn rib. That makes his eyes snap open, my right arm hovering in the air between us, my left hand wrapped around my rib cage to cradle my injury. His eyes roll from mine to my outstretched hand, to the arm wrapped around me. He blinks lazily, looking pretty out of it, and I finish reaching for him, grabbing his wrist and pulling him to a sitting position.
“What’s wrong with your ribs?” he asks, the words garbled from his busted face.
“Broken,” I admit, grinning.
His eyes go wide before his expression settles into a smirk. “Good.”
I’d roll my eyes at his obvious contempt, but it’s not as if I haven’t earned it. Besides, this is the side of him that I like best—the side that has a backbone; I still remember the tiny-tot he used to be. Ah, such naivety. Now, he’s just as bitter as the rest of us.
“Take care of that”—I jut out my chin, indicating his nose—“before you permanently mar your face. Wouldn’t want to disappoint all your fangirls.”
Evander blushes bright red. “I don’t have fangirls.”
“That’s not what I heard.” I grin. “You forget, your buddies liked to run their mouths.”
We fall silent.
I’ve scratched old wounds. Working for the guild is dangerous, to say the least.
Shakily, I get to my feet and go to the counter where I’d deposited my mages’ belt. I flip open the pocket holding my healing potions and grab three—two for him, one for me. Then I carry them back over to the mat where he’s staring into space, looking like I kicked his puppy. That would’ve been nicer than mentioning his fallen teammates.
Blowing out a breath, I squat down in front of him, shaking the vials in front of his face.
He blinks, his watery gaze adjusting to take in the sight of the sloshing, green liquid. His lips curl down as his gaze meets mine.
“Peace offering,” I say, wiggling them again.
He continues glowering as he reaches to take them. Once he does, I sit on the mat across from him, knee propped up, pressing my arm against it and balancing my weight. My rib is throbbing now, and it’s getting difficult to breathe. I uncork the potion and throw it back, the awful flavor like rotting meat sliding over my tongue.
I cough, pounding my fist against my sternum to encourage my lungs to overcome the shock of the taste. “You would think these geniuses could figure out how to make it taste better,” I mutter, flicking the glass vial across the mat. It clinks onto the cement floor.
“Don’t be a dick,” he wheezes, but I know he agrees.
“Can’t help it,” I retort, laying down on the mat and closing my eyes. “Just who I am.”
When the healing magic kicks in, I grit my teeth against the burn. My rib reattaches itself, the jarring sensation of bone growing and fusing together enough to make me see white for a minute. That sensation is so powerful I hardly feel the sting of my bruised skin healing itself.
Evander gasps, loud and harsh, and I grimace. My ribs hurt like a bitch, but at least it wasn’t my face. I really shouldn’t haven’t broken his nose…but it had been an accident. I hadn’t expected him to duck when I’d turned, and…well…he took the full impact of my knee to the face. I would apologize, but he wouldn’t believe me.
“Wuss,” I mutter.
“Awe, Evander. I’m flattered,” I joke, opening an eye to peek at him. “I didn’t know you felt that way.”
His ears turn red and he gets to his feet, kicking me in my freshly healed rib on his way out.
I can’t help but laugh.