The Cloak of Nothing: Chapter 32

by Mark Figueroa | Featured Art by A Forgotten Pen at @theforgottenpen

Chapter 32: The Sunflower Samurai. 

This is impossible! Mymud has no tell! He doesn’t even have eyes! How am I supposed to defend myself? I can’t keep evading him. How do I use the cloak for this?

“Are you incapable of defeating me, Emery?” Mymud asks. His faceless gaze is as cold as his words.

“Pfft. No. Come at me!” I got you now!

Mymud darts at me. Crap! My hands go right through him! He knees my stomach, then swiftly jabs my ribs, and punches me the chin. 

A force suspends me in the air. Everything goes black.

I open my eyes. “Did he just—Did Mymud knock me out?” I ask Kanti. He sits patient ahead of me. “My ribs and chin feel like they’re on fire,” I groan as I stand up.

Warm, white light traces my body. The aching and burning stops. 

Kanti nods. “Do you admit defeat?”

I shake myself off and try to get limber. “Nope. Should I?”

“That depends, Young Emery.”

“On what?” Why does he have to be so cryptic? “Can’t you ever just give a direct response, Kanti?” I ask, looking around for Mymud. 

“Is responding to you directly, not a direct response? Instead of expecting and relying on my assistance, why not ask yourself what you can do for yourself? This is a test for you, not an evaluation of my efficacy in deliberating advice. How would you advise one in your situation, Young Emery?” Kanti asks firmly. His red and blue eyes are scanning me; I can feel them probing my thoughts. “I scan for subconscious reactions, ignore my presence in your mind, and contemplate on how would you advise one in your situation.”

“I already have an answer… I would tell them to surrender.” I sigh. “There would be no point in fighting Mymud. Mymud won before the fight started.”

Kanti’s eyes turn blue. “Are you sure that action, given the circumstances, would be universally beneficial to any observer or actor in your position in relation to Mymud’s?”

I nod. “I should’ve told Mymud he defeated me after the first blow. If it were a real fight, and I’ve been bullied enough times to know, I wouldn’t have the time to figure Mymud out or the time to learn how I could attack him. His whole reason for being was to fight me, or defeat me, or whatever. You saw it. He literally whooped my ass. When the fight wasn’t about defeating him anymore, I was trying to preserve my ego… M—My—My pride. Does that make me a useless cloak bearer?”

“Absolutely not. Such wisdom only proves your strength and potential. It is easier to take a beating, than to be honest with one’s self.”

“So, am I right in admitting defeat?”

“Again, Young Emery, I cannot answer. That depends.”

“Can you at least tell me what it depends on?” My voice cracks as I wipe my face. I’m so weak.

“It depends on what is more important to you, in relation to the circumstances. All battles will be different; all externalities will be different; it follows that what is at stake will also be different. In this case, against Mymud, what did you value more: defeating Mymud or preserving your ego?” 

I sit cross-legged beside Kanti. 

“On the one hand, you have an opponent whose sole purpose was to defeat you. How it defeated you, depended on your actions, despite ultimately depending on my intervention, of course. It did not say it was going to destroy you. Had you admitted defeat and meant it, out of cowardice or lack of effort and determination, your defeat would have undermined your position as the bearer of the cloak; on the other hand, had you analyzed your opponent, put forth a reasonable, unquestionable amount of effort, only to determine that you were incapable of wielding your power with the confidence and competence to adequately fight back, then admitting defeat would have been the only alternative.” Kanti’s eyes are intense as they lock with mine. “Had you continued to have fought to satisfy your ego, and died as a result, it would show that not only do you lack the strength of character to be honest with yourself, but would also imply that you lack the ability to reason. Your opponent, who existed to defeat you, would have left with your defeat, upon your admission that you could not possess victory.”

“I have a lot of growing to do,” I sigh, getting up and picking up the intact zip-lock bag with all my games. “Couldn’t I have willed myself to defeat Mymud?” I ask jokingly.

“You do not possess the discipline to will your garments clean. How could one such as yourself will a victory? There is no victory where there is no effort.”

“What if I got lucky?” I head for the stairs back to the kitchen.

“Perhaps,” Kanti begins. “Where there is a will, there is a way; however, it would be unlikely one would be lucky enough to succeed without possessing the ability to survive in the first place.” He silently trots behind me back into the kitchen. 

Two plates and two bowls are set on the counter. 

“You were down there for like ten minutes? Were you sniffing your own dirty underwear?” Eliza laughs. 

“Ha-ha-ha…” I respond, slow-clapping. “I was sniffing yours!” I blurt out. God! Why did I say that! 

“Ew! Sucio! That’s wrong on so many levels.” Eliza cringes and exhales. “Anyway, queres ayudar me con la ensalada, Turd?” Eliza asks.  “The maids don’t work from November through January fifth, so we have to chop everything ourselves.”

“Gimme a sec. I’m just going to bring everything upstairs. It’s pretty awesome that you have automatic lights in the basement.” 

“I definitely do … not… have that … I wish I did… didn’t even know that was a thing!” Eliza says staring blankly at me.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I say, remembering the different psychologists Ash and Courtney forced me to see. “I gotta’ put my phone to charge.”

“Sure, whaaat evaaa, man,” Eliza responds pouring red wine into a large goblet-like glass.  She grabs a few strawberries and pecans.   

“Did I do that with the lights, or did you?” I ask Kanti. “Hey, do—he’s gone?” I ask aloud, pausing in the center of the main hall.

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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