Harry was nervous. He wasn't an Intelligence Ranger, and he was scared to death of botching this delicate operation. But this was the only way, apparently. He tugged at the obi that kept was wrapped around his silk kimono. He looked down at the strange slipper socks he was wearing, footwear that separated the big toe from the other toes and had canvas soles to reduce wear. Their sandals had to be left at the entrance of the palace.
He smiled as he remembered. The dressing up had been a disaster, with Heidi and Wolfe bickering over the silliest things. Wolfe had refused to wear the fundoshi, a cotton loincloth that was wrapped around the stomach and up between the legs, while Heidi insisted that it was proper to do so. Wolfe had argued that he wasn't planning to strip down to his underwear anyway, and Harry had followed his lead.
Harry didn't object to the rest of the clothing, though. The nagajuban, an under-kimono of lightweight silk, dyed silver to compliment the colour of the next layer. It felt good against his skin. Heidi had made him undress again after she'd discovered that he'd wrapped his kimono right over left. Apparently only corpses that were to be buried were wrapped that way.
The outer kimono, called kosode, was black, with silver trimming around the sleeves and hem. The Ranger crest appeared on the back of the kimono at center, and on the back of both sleeves at the upper arm, as well as each front over the chest.
Wolfe and Heidi had also clashed over whether a hakama or nagabakama should be worn. From afar these would look like wide trousers, but up close one could see they were more like long, divided, skirts. The nagabakama was essentially the court version of the hakama, and naturally Heidi had wanted them to wear these. Harry was glad that Wolfe had put his foot down on that issue though. Nagabakama were too long, and had to be held up when one walked with them on. Harry was sure that he'd have been tripping all over himself with those on. So, much to Heidi's chagrin, who by that time had been complaining that she might as well have stayed in Nomad Island, they wore hakama.
Heidi had also wanted them to wear a hoeki no hô, a long silk over robe, but Wolfe had refused, saying that he was a warrior, not a court noble. For the sake of uniformity, Harry had gone along with him, although he wasn't so sure about it now. After all, Heidi must have known what she was talking about.
He glanced at Wolfe, whose face didn't reveal any anxiety, not that it ever did. His companion looked every inch the samurai, with daisho tucked into his obi.
Harry too had wanted to carry the two swords, the katana and the wakizashi, which were referred to collectively as daisho. But Wolfe had explained that a person who carried a katana was expected to be able to use it, and Harry couldn't.
Moreover, the swords Wolfe was wearing had been a gift from the Phoenix Clan elders to Master Lei. Apparently they had an enchantment of some sort cast upon them, and the main reason he was wearing the swords was to gain the Phoenix Clan's favour. The Rangers would need all the allies they could get.
Wolfe had contacted Captain Kovalenko and Commander Ironheart as soon as they'd returned to the Cruiser. The commanding officers had expressed their concern. A change of tactics had also been in order. It was now up to Harry and Wolfe to attend a gathering at the Imperial Court.
The occasion for this gathering was a moon viewing banquet, and the high-ranking wizards used it to rub shoulders. One of these wizards could know what was going on, so Harry and Wolfe had to try to find out exactly what was going on, even though neither was an Intelligence Ranger. Fortunately, Wolfe had had some instruction under Master Lei. But the slight frown on Wolfe's face told Harry that he'd rather have someone else find out who'd attacked Gavin and point him in the right direction so he could deal with the culprit.
Harry shifted around in his seat. They'd been kept waiting for an hour. Wolfe had anticipated this, as well as the requirement of their having to leave their wands in a special place, where all the people attending Court, the wizarding Emperor included, would leave their wands. This minimised the possibility of sabotage, since the Imperial Guard wouldn't allow anyone to sabotage the Emperor's wand somehow. However, Wolfe planned to have Doc sweep their wands for tracing spells and booby traps before they'd return to the Cruiser.
Another very puzzling thing was the fact that Wolfe was allowed to carry his weapons, but not his wand. What was up with that? Didn't that make Wolfe and the other people who wore the daisho a threat to the Emperor? Harry shook his head. No use in trying to work out all these customs.
Harry would have felt better if Doc had accompanied them, but that was apparently impossible. According to Wolfe, Yuriko was a great deal more open-minded than most Japanese wizards were. Her reaction to Doc had been favourable, but Wolfe expected that the wizards would react to Doc as if he were a major abomination, being half-goblin.
Heidi had opted to stay away too, since her name didn't really carry any weight in these circles, and she feared that she wouldn't be able to defend herself if someone decided to make her a target. After all, they still didn't know why Gavin had been attacked. It could be open season on Rangers, for all they knew. Wolfe had concurred.
Gavin also couldn't accompany them for obvious reasons. If the Emperor wanted him dead, his mere presence would have been a slap in the Imperial face. Strangely enough, Gavin had wanted to come, arguing that his absence might tip the Emperor off to their knowledge of his involvement in the assassination attempt. But he'd grudgingly agreed to stay behind after Wolfe had assured him that Yuriko Makioka had indeed sought him out for her personal reasons, and that there was no reason to assume that the Emperor was aware of their knowledge.
An old and bald courtier slipped into the room and dismissed the two Imperial Guards. Having been drilled by Heidi how to recognise the various Clan colours and mon, Harry recognised the man to be of the Unicorn Clan, the clan closest to the Imperial family, since the Emperor's bride had always been from that clan since the beginning of the dynasty. This interbreeding had had a few interesting effects on the Imperial family. They were all very short, and had grey eyes. They also had a lot of magical talent.
Harry cleared away Heidi's teachings from his mind momentarily and glanced around as they were being led to the throne upon which the Emperor sat. The Emperor wore heavy robes of resplendent silver and gold, more magnificent than all the other kimono in the hall, save maybe his wife's. She sat on a large pillow beside him, on the same dais that held the throne.
About forty or so courtiers occupied the hall. Most had the colours of one of the five Great Clans, but Harry managed to spot a cluster of wizards who clearly belonged to the Minor Clans. He felt underdressed as he noticed that all the men wore the long nagabakama. Maybe he should have listened to Heidi after all. He spotted Yuriko, but didn't acknowledge her presence. After all, their meeting had never taken place.
Harry remained half a pace behind Wolfe, to make sure that the Emperor knew whom to address. He didn't feel like talking, afraid that he'd unwittingly start a riot.
Their guide, the Unicorn, bowed and spoke to the Emperor, while the monarch regarded Wolfe and Harry with benevolent curiosity. He didn't look like a bloke who'd order a hit on a Ranger. But from life experience, Harry knew that appearances were extremely deceiving. Heidi had warned him that this was even more so the case in Japan.
The Emperor then asked a question, and Wolfe replied to the question before the Unicorn could translate, drawing whispers from the crowd in the hall. Then he followed Wolfe's example and bowed, only straightening again after Wolfe did so too.
"I bid you welcome!" the Emperor said graciously, and in English, surprising many of the courtiers. "It is an honour to have such distinguished guests. Please, make full use of the palace's facilities and conveniences."
"We are honoured to be here," Wolfe said, and bowed again, before turning away. He beckoned Harry to follow him. As planned, they would go to Yuriko for the formal introduction. Since Wolfe knew Yuriko from childhood, their interaction wouldn't raise suspicion.
"You never cease to amaze me, Wolfe-sama," Yuriko said, confusing Harry with the usage of titles once again. Hadn't Wolfe been a san? "You have mastered the high language of the court. The Emperor was pleased and impressed."
Yuriko raised her hand, drawing the attention of an older man, who hurried over as fast as dignity allowed. He bowed to Harry. "Potter-sama, a great honour!"
Harry studied his robes, mostly silver with a touch of shimmering black. The man was of the Mooncalf Clan, one of the Minor Clans.
"This is Shobo-sama, my mentor."
"Your efforts have produced a fine witch," Harry said, returning the bow. He was getting tired of sucking up to people, but the veil of courtesy was a necessity.
The wizard, however, seemed delighted. "Is that so? Do you know her?"
Harry caught his breath as he realised his mistake. "I have just been introduced to her, but the fact that she has Wolfe's regard hints at her qualities."
"I see!" the wizard said happily. He really was a jolly sort of fellow. "Would you like to meet some of the courtiers? They are anxious to meet the conqueror of Hannibal Skaras and The Dark Lord."
Harry nodded. It was time to start feeling around for clues. He glanced at Wolfe. "If I may?"
"By all means! Makioka-san and I need to catch up."
So Harry followed Shobo to a cluster of witches. They all hid their faces behind their fans as he approached them.
Shobo spoke to them and stern tones, causing them to fold up their fans. Their faces were painted white, but he suspected that they were all blushing. One of them spoke up. "We were wondering about the reason for your visit, Potter-sama."
"I wish the only reason for my visit was to be in the company of Japan's finest witches." The women barely stifled their giggles. Wolfe had told him that flirting with, and flattering the wives of important wizards was accepted, as long as it remained at polite conversation. "But I'm afraid that we are here on pressing business, which I regret to say I cannot discuss."
"We understand," the witch who'd spoken to him said. Harry guessed that she was their spokeswoman. "We will not try to pry these secrets from you, then. But tell us, are you courting anyone?"
Harry felt his face flush. "Well-no, I g-guess," he stammered, instantly feeling guilty. But he had no idea who these women were, and he had no intention of discussing his feelings for Ginny with them. The fewer people who knew about him and Ginny, the better. Even though the Weasleys had fully accepted the fact that they could be harmed because of their relationship to Harry, he didn't feel like adding to their danger.
"Then perhaps you would like to meet with my daughter? She…"
Shobo interrupted the woman and took Harry by the elbow, urging him to follow. "I apologise for that. Despite all my years as an Intelligence gatherer for the Emperor … I should have anticipated her motives. She has this rather dumb and unattractive daughter she needs to marry off."
Harry frowned. The way Heidi had explained things, Harry would have thought that marrying non-Japanese wizards was reason to be cast out of the community. "I've been told that marrying gaijin is not allowed."
"Exceptions are made for exceptional wizards, Potter-sama," Shobo explained. "No wizard in this court would object to your marrying his daughter, save perhaps the Emperor." He sighed. "I am afraid that marriage has little to do with love in our society. It is strictly a business matter, arranged by the parents of the couple and a middleman. One is not necessarily expected to love one's spouse. Mutual respect is required, however. Love is considered a charming bonus in marriage. And tradition is also very important, oh yes."
Harry nodded and glanced at the Emperor, who was listening to the bickering of two courtiers with half an ear. "How is the Emperor's safety ensured? I mean, there are Guards at every entrance to this hall, but could they get to the Emperor in time in case of danger? What if there's a visitor with enough skill to harm him without a wand?" he asked. He knew that he or Wolfe could probably kill the Emperor if they wanted to.
Shobo nodded at one of the court ladies. "Sayuki Matsu-hime. The eldest daughter of the Imperial heir, sworn to protect our Emperor, and her father."
Her face was not painted, Harry noted, and a pretty, heart-shaped face it was. It reminded him of someone. "But how will she protect him?"
"Her hairpins are hollow and contain a nerve-toxin, and that ornamental comb can double as a weapon. She also has a few surprises up her sleeves."
Harry resisted the urge to whistle. "Interesting."
"I too have some skills I could use to defend the Emperor," Shobo announced. "I know I don't look like it, but it is true. And apart from the guards and the princess, two of the entertainers"-Shobo nodded at two female musicians-"are also guards. Their flutes are flute-guns that can shoot darts. The flutes, like all weapons, are also charmed not to harm the Emperor, in case someone gets the idea of controlling the guards."
"I see…Deception is an advantage."
"On another note," Harry began. "Why is Wolfe allowed to carry weapons near the Emperor?"
"Ah, a clever question! Those particular swords used to belong to a Phoenix Clan Imperial bodyguard. They were given to Lei Li as a gift. They are not ordinary weapons, mind you. They are enchanted and have a will of their own, and like their former master they are sworn to protect the Emperor. So if Wolfe-sama had wanted to harm the Emperor with them, they would not have co-operated. Meanwhile, Wolfe-sama too functions as a bodyguard, while he is present."
Harry was impressed. He had underestimated the security around the Emperor. Now it was time to start searching for clues relevant to his mission. "So tell me, would you want to theorise about the mastermind behind the attack of my fellow Ranger?"
"Why, that necromancer, of course," Shobo said, clearly not even willing to utter Yamato's name.
They were interrupted as the start of the banquet was announced. Everyone moved to one of the larger chambers in the palace, where the Emperor and his guests took their seats. The seating was pre-arranged, and Wolfe and Harry got side-by-side standing trays, Wolfe being flanked by Yuriko while Harry was stuck to Shobo. Unfortunately, conversation was perfectly acceptable during the banquet, and Harry had trouble remembering all the do's and don'ts with Shobo chattering away at him.
Shobo kept at it after the banquet too, and it was getting harder for Harry to mask his annoyance. He needed to escape, so he looked for Wolfe, who was nowhere to be seen. "Shobo-sama, have you seen Ranger Wolfe?"
The wizard looked around. "I do not know where he went. Shall I look for him?"
"Let's look for them together, lest one of these ladies attempts to lure me into a marriage with her daughter," Harry joked.
Shobo laughed heartily. "Let us try the gardens."
They set off at a leisurely pace through the corridors of the palace until they came upon a balcony that overlooked an extensive garden. Fairies, which had been summoned to function as decorations, sat on top of bushes, occasionally flying to another bush, or flitting around people who moved among them. There was no sign of Wolfe and Yuriko anywhere.
"Perhaps we should search the garden. Yuriko-san always spoke fondly of Wolfe-sama," he said suggestively. "This puts me in a bad position, for I was supposed to be her honour retainer, her er, I believe the word is chaperone."
Harry frowned at this but didn't say anything. Did Wolfe resemble his grandfather in more ways than one? Had he inherited the roving eyes along with the looks? That wasn't possible. Harry assured himself that Wolfe was different from Commander Ironheart. "It's a big garden. How do you propose that we find them?"
"If they are indeed in the garden, we should each begin at one end and work our way towards the centre."
Harry agreed and made his way along the edge of the maze-like garden. It reminded him of the final task at the Triwizard Tournament. An involuntary shiver ran down Harry's spine as he remembered that night, the night that his nightmare had truly begun. He was reluctant to enter it, but Shobo was already gone, so there was nothing else for it. The hedges of the maze were low, obviously having been trimmed with Japanese wizards in mind, because Harry was tall enough to see over them. If Wolfe had been standing up, he should have been clearly visible.
An odd feeling settled in Harry's stomach as he entered the maze. What if he found Wolfe following his grandfather's example? Would he tell Hermione, or Galatea? Or should he cover for Wolfe, provided that Wolfe promised never to do it again?
He searched for another fifteen minutes and was tempted to shout, but he decided against it. Such behaviour would be frowned upon. Then he suddenly heard the rustling sound of someone brushing against the hedges. He hurried forward and rounded the corner. He saw two figures locked in an embrace, kissing each other. Neither of them was Wolfe, so Harry adhered to the ignorance rule and continued onwards.
Walking through all the pathways for many more minutes still yielded no results, and everything seemed quiet before he heard another rustling sound, which immediately stopped. Harry held his breath and listened. Everything had gone quiet; there weren't even any fairies in the immediate vicinity.
Harry didn't have a sixth sense, but years of experience had taught him when he was in potential danger, and he realised with a start that this was one of those times. The fairies had been evenly spread over the entire garden, but now the ones in his vicinity were absent. Wizards generally didn't scare fairies away, unless the fairies ran the risk of being squashed. Someone must have banished them.
He wasn't going to be ambushed here. He was going to get out safely so he could get back to Ginny! The power exploded out of his core and enveloped him in a dim white glow. His eyesight, hearing and sense of smell had sharpened, allowing him to hear the sharp intake of breath behind him, and allowing him to smell a faint aroma of jasmine. He leapt, magically boosting his jump, somersaulting over has attacker as the blade of a Japanese short-sword sliced through the space he had just occupied. His attacker, a female, seemed to be moving as if the Impediment jinx had hit her, while he seemed to move at regular speed.
Harry landed behind her, light as a feather. He knew he could take this assassin, no problem. From the wide-eyed look she gave him as she whipped around, he saw that she too had just realised that he wasn't an easy target. With a simple gesture, he wrenched the sword from her hand and called it into his own. He knew he could only harness this pure magic for short periods of time, and he didn't want to overtax himself. Even though he was now able to tap into his power at will, he'd never quite managed to hold onto it as long as he'd done it that first time. Time to make noise. "Woooolfe! Ranger under attack!"
The assassin drew a dagger, and Harry raised the captured sword into a middle guard. He didn't know as much about sword fighting as he'd like to, but he knew enough to defend himself long enough for help to arrive. But the assassin didn't attack him. She raised the dagger to her own chest and prepared to stab it into her heart.
Instantly realising that he couldn't allow that to happen, Harry reacted, reaching for the power deep within his core and channelling it into a Disarming Charm. The knife shot out of the assassin's hand and plunged into a hedge instead. Then Harry pounced on the assassin, tackling her near her centre of gravity so she couldn't use an infighting manoeuvre against him. She landed on her back, Harry on top of her, straddling her chest and pinning her hands over her head.
He briefly thought that it was over, but proved to be sorely mistaken as her feet clamped around his neck to pull him backwards. In an instant, she was on top of him, her thin forearms were locked in his iron grip and held behind her back, her lightweight frame trapped against his. So it was a stalemate, until she kneed him in the crotch. He briefly squeezed her forearms even tighter, before slackening his grip, allowing her to pull free. But instead of pressing her advantage, she disappeared into the gardens again.
Why she'd done that became apparent soon afterwards, when Wolfe landed in a crouch beside him. "Where did he go?"
"He's a she," Harry moaned. "She isn't afraid to fight dirty either." He couldn't breathe too deeply. It hurt much more if he did.
"Did you recognise her?" Wolfe asked, pulling Harry to his feet. He walked around Harry, examining him for other, more serious injuries.
"She was wearing a mask, no taller than five feet, very light, trim."
"You just described the average female assassin. I need more information than this."
"Oh, she smelled like jasmine," Harry remembered.
"Why have you been smelling my sister?" Wolfe growled.
"Not your sister, you git. The flower!"
"Oh. Hmm. So she smelled like jasmine? Aren't you forgetting something?" Wolfe asked. "This still isn't enough information."
Harry searched his memory for more details. He suddenly remembered. "Wolfe, I know this'll sound crazy, but she had grey eyes."
'That doesn't make sense," Wolfe said.
"Potter-sama, are you all right?" Shobo asked, stumbling over his robes. Yuriko crashed into him, sending them both crashing onto the ground.
Harry's pain had lessened considerably, and he held out his hand to help Yuriko to her feet. She blushed and took his hand. A flowery perfume wafted off her frame. "Jasmine."
"A keen nose, Potter-sama."
"It's very nice."
"Is it commonly used by the ladies of the court?" he asked.
"This particular scent is actually out of fashion." She frowned. "Why do you ask?"
"My attacker was wearing the same scent…" He suspended his sentence when a quartet of guards rounded the corner, bearing pole-arms. They asked Shobo a few questions, and Shobo replied in rapid Japanese. Then they guards hurried off.
"Won't do any good," Wolfe said. "The assassin is long gone."
Harry frowned. He wasn't so sure about that. But when Wolfe touched his shoulder and briefly gave him a knowing look, he knew that Wolfe agreed. But he didn't want to tell their Japanese companions for some reason.
"We would like our wands back, please," Wolfe said. "Please offer our apologies to the Emperor on our behalf. We did not mean to be rude."
"No apology is necessary, Ranger Wolfe." Harry turned around and saw the Emperor himself, striding towards them, flanked by his guard. "It is I who owes you an apology. I cannot even guarantee the safety of my guests anymore."
Then Harry noticed her, standing a few paces behind her father. Her grey eyes regarding him steadily. He gestured with both his hands, causing the sleeves of her kimono to slide upwards, revealing the beginning bruises on her lower arms. "I left marks on my attacker."
The guards stared at the arms incredulously, and the gasp from one of their throats prompted the Emperor to turn around. The old man began to shake, and Yuriko hurried forward to steady him. Harry didn't have to understand Japanese to understand the uttering of the Emperor. He looked at Wolfe and Harry with grief and shame etched onto his features. "Please, she will be dealt with, but allow this to remain a secret."
"I trust your wisdom in this matter," Wolfe said, cutting Harry off.
Harry felt a surge of anger towards Wolfe. They had his would-be assassin! How could Wolfe let her get away like this? She was the princess, so it would be kept quiet for sure. But he didn't say anything. The chilly look Wolfe gave him told him to remain silent.
"Please, may we have our wands now? We have to leave," Wolfe said. "I sincerely regret the grief you must be feeling. I have no children of my own, but I know the kind of pain the loss of a relative can cause." Harry looked beyond the Emperor, just catching a glimpse of the princess being escorted away by two of the guards.
"The captain of my guard will take you to your wands," he said numbly. Then he was escorted away by the remaining guards, except for an older one, who took Harry and Wolfe out of the opposite end of the maze and guided them to where their wands had been stored. Then he silently escorted them to the entrance of the palace, bowed, and left.
Harry opened his mouth to speak, but Wolfe raised a quivering finger. Harry was taken aback by the anger visible on his face. His dark eyes were burning with a fury that Harry had only seen when Wolfe had recognised Skaras in the Indian complex, over a year ago. Then Wolfe Disapparated, and Harry followed.
Harry reappeared in the woods where Doc would meet up with them. His eyes quickly settled on Wolfe.
"What the hell were you thinking, exposing the princess like that!"
"Shobo told me about her skills. I knew it was her!"
"And you think I didn't? How many Japanese girls have grey eyes? Do you know how much embarrassment you have caused the Emperor, and how much grief? Yuriko has gathered some more information. The Emperor doesn't know anything about the attack on the Ranger…He didn't order it! And that girl's mind was a blank. She was as surprised as they were when she saw the bruises on her arms. Someone put her under the Imperius! Damn it, why didn't you trust my judgement in the matter?"
A question formed in Harry's mind, and Wolfe answered it before he could voice it. "I've been ordered to keep my gift under wraps. Very few people outside the Order know about it, and Commander Ironheart wanted to keep it that way. He even sent the word to the Weasleys not to talk about it. Besides, it wouldn't have changed a thing! She's an Imperial scion, she's supposed to be able to shake off the Imperius."
Harry opened his mouth, and again Wolfe cut him off. "I know that's an insane notion, but the Japanese wizards believe in it anyway. Now that everyone knows about it, she'll be banished, or worse, she'll be expected to commit seppuku!
"The Emperor was thinking those thoughts when he left with his guard. That's his secret; unlike his forefathers, he can't throw off the Imperius either. He thinks the blood is thinning, even though I doubt that has something to do with it. Damn it, you should have trusted my judgement! You made a call on incomplete knowledge…Incomplete? Hell, non-existent knowledge! And now we're in trouble!"
Harry was taken aback. "I-I didn't…"
"You didn't think!" Wolfe finished. "Well, don't think! Leave the thinking to me!"
"Really?" Harry sneered. "Bloody brilliant thinking you did when you allowed Malfoy to take Ginny!"
The fire burning in Wolfe's eyes hinted Harry to what was coming, as the tall Ranger pulled the swords out of his obi and tossed them on the ground. Tapping into his power reserve, he barely managed to evade Wolfe's punch.
He was dimly aware of the gusts of wind that picked up the leaves and twigs from the grounds, twirling them around Wolfe and himself. Their collective energy was causing it. The twigs drifted around them very slowly, as if time was slowing down, but to Harry's shock, Wolfe wasn't. He was moving just as quickly as Harry was, and Harry doubled over as he took a vicious punch in the gut. He was lifted off the ground and fell down ten feet away.
He just lay there for a while, clutching his stomach and gasping for breath. The pain was incredible. Lilia would have to have a look at him when they got back to the Cruiser.
"You still have a lot to learn," Wolfe said, standing over him, breathing heavily and trying to control his rage. "Someone is toying with us, and the Imperial family. One of his goals was to dishonour the Emperor, and thanks to you, he succeeded. Another problem you've caused is that no one in their right minds is going to want to assist us now, out of paranoia. Everyone has skeletons in his closet, and now they'll be afraid of being exposed. And that's the worst thing that could happen to a Japanese wizard. God, I hope that she isn't expected to kill herself."
"What's going on here?" Doc asked, seeing the red-faced Wolfe and the doubled-over Harry.
Wolfe didn't answer him. He just handed his wand to Doc, who began to subject it to a series of tests.
Harry, still clutching his stomach, was feeling incredibly stupid and guilty. He hadn't felt this way since being caught by McGonagall after smuggling Norbert out of Hogwarts. He was a Fifth Class Ranger, he needed to do better than this if he wanted to prove himself to the Order. After all, they had allowed him to skip a rank. Then again, maybe their trust in him had been misplaced. He looked up at Wolfe and suddenly felt very inadequate. "How-how did you become so fast?"
"I've been training and meditating."
"What, where, when…why?"
"In Concordia, in the forest. I managed to train for about a week when I was supposed to be taking a break, after…" Wolfe didn't continue the sentence, but Harry knew he was talking about his mistake. "But I had too much energy to burn, and I had to keep my mind off Galatea to keep my sanity," he added gloomily. Then he smirked. "I also hate being second best!"
Harry slowly straightened up. Wolfe had been training to surpass him! "Then I'd better start training too."
"I asked you to train with me last week, remember? But you were too busy relaxing." Wolfe shook his head. "You're more powerful than I am. There's no question about that. But you need to stay sharp. In our line of work it could mean the difference between life and death. And I want to grow old with Galatea before I'm ready to die. That's why I train."
"Apart from your desire to beat me." Harry smirked.
"I don't want to beat you for the sake of beating you. You just make me push myself to the limit. I think I ought to start returning the favour, because you've been slacking off!" Wolfe said sternly, making Harry feel very much like a student being reprimanded.
"Are we any closer to finding out why Gavin's been attacked?" Doc asked, handing Wolfe's wand back to him and taking Harry's wand to subject it to the same tests.
Wolfe shook his head. "Not yet. But Yuriko told me about someone who might know things. Harry and I are going to pay him a visit as soon as possible."