Part Two: No Return
I could not trust anyone with the fullness of my plan, not even a significant subset of it. I could not take the risk of betrayal to either the authorities or to the gangs. Instead, I spent more time on that plan, with the intention of breaking it down into individual elements that would not immediately arouse suspicion as I went about acquiring the aid that I needed to fulfill my ambitions. Once I decided upon a suitable division, I set about making contact with various acquaintances, contacts and friends to acquire those necessary skills and tools.
Within my dwelling, I cleared a space and ensured that it was sufficiently equipped for all of my training needs. I placed a man-sized pole therein, upon which I trained my unarmed and melee weapon techniques. Therein I also kept my weaponry, such as it was at that time; unlike the panoply I became famous for after the Azure Flames, at this time such weaponry was limited to a strong club, a hatchet and a pair of knives—one that I could easily conceal, and one I could not—with an eye towards getting one or more of the wondrous firearms that the Old World is justly famous for producing in such variety and quantity. In this pursuit, I relied on the recorded wisdom written down by famous figures in the world of martial arts and warfare—some within my lifetime, some within living memory, some ancient even then—and reconstructed that of their practices that worked (discarding the rest).
I also took up related practices of physical training, focusing upon endurance. I walked far more often to nearby places, and then extended that distances as my health and fitness improved. In order to do this while maintaining my other obligations, I had to reacquaint myself with the concept of time; my inherent sense of time improved as my health did, because I had to learn how to integrate this training into my greater body of activity. Because I lived in a temperate climate with changing seasonal weather, I reacquired the practical knowledge necessary to be active outside at all times of the year.
You may find this odd, reader, but this also led to my mastery of how to prepare and cook food for myself from raw ingredients; in the years before the Flames, this skill was rare—enough that one could earn quite a good living from it—and as I did not hide my growing acumen I once more became interesting company to many an acquaintance and friend who’d previously shunned me due to my disdain for conformity to artifice and illusory dogma. This too I turned to my advantage, because it let me approach people in a manner they found not threatening or suspicious and acquire the benefit of the expert knowledge about criminal science, legal theory and enforcement procedure that I needed.
I began this process in the fall of that year, and over that winter—a cold and cruel one—I made this transformation. When the snows receded in the spring of the next year, I had successfully changed myself in body and mind into a man that could accomplish this goal. My dear friend had, by then, gone home from the hospital- or, rather, to a residence that would accept her. (I had not the room, though I wished that I did, for I would have taken her in.) This took some persuasion, and in procuring this place for my beloved friend I performed a favor for an influential man—not that I knew this at the time—that would mark the moment wherein I could no longer abandon this path.
I asked one of my friends who worked for the authorities, and formerly worked for the military, if he could refer me to an expert on the use of firearms. He knew, for I—truthfully—had told him some time previously that I wanted to purchase one of the sort of firearms that those neither of the military nor of the enforcement agencies, that I wanted to learn how to effectively use such weapons for valid self-defense purposes. He fulfilled my request and introduced me to a man who worked in preparing for catastrophic events on behalf of the authorities. I befriended this man, and in time he confided to me that his sister suffered the abuse of a violent, yet cowardly man whom she foolishly took as a husband; she wanted to leave this man, but feared retribution. He appeared to be negligent about leaving about his place of work the information regarding where his sister dwelled, so I noted it down.
I found the abusive husband drinking himself into a stupor at a bar. I disguised myself as a plain-clothed enforcement agent and went up to him, asking him to step outside where we could talk privately. I assured him that he was in no trouble, but rather that I wanted to ask him about one of his co-workers whom I said was under suspicion for fraud. I sat him in his conveyance, turned it on so that the noise would drown out the conversation unless one were right next to us, and started talking to him. As I did, I helped him strap himself into the operator’s seat and get himself ready to drive away. Then I assaulted him with an electronic device that incapacitated him. With the conveyance on, I reached inside and set it to go forward; it pointed toward the river right nearby. I watched it launch forward at some speed and fly off the end of the road. I did not stay to see if it landed in the river or on the bank, lest undue attention be given to me.
By the time that I met once more with my trainer, I received confirmation that the husband did die in the apparent accident, which the authorities—after trying to find the agent that did not exist— ruled as an accident borne of impaired judgment due to the husband’s drinking. The trainer and I talked over the incident; he let on that he found it interesting that a man vaguely resembling me was the last to see him alive, and I let on that I found it interesting that a man entrusted to enforce the authorities’ rules had to break those rules to acquire the justice that his sister needed so that she could heal. We then came to an accord, which would become something more after the Azure Flames destroyed the Old World.
Nonetheless, when I did that I killed a man as surely as if I slew him by fist, firearm or flail. I slew with my mind; I slew by cunning, deception and guile as I exploited the gullibility of my victim as well as those others who could interfere. I also impressed—in terms both glorious and horrific—the man for whom I did that deed. (As for the sister, that is another story.) The only other that ever deduced what I did was my own beloved and precious friend, and to her credit she understood what happened as well as why- for she then deduced that this was to be done on her behalf. I passed the point of no return.