Breeze held up his cup, tapping its side with his ﬁngernail. The rebel regarded it darkly.
“Right now,” Breeze said, “you’re wondering if I’m using Allomancy on you. Perhaps I am, perhaps I am not. Does it matter? I’m here by your leader’s invitation, and he ordered you to see that I was made comfortable. And, I assure you, a cup of wine in my hand is absolutely necessary for my comfort.”
The skaa man waited for a moment, then snatched the cup and stalked away, grumbling under his breath about foolish costs and wasted resources.
Breeze raised an eyebrow, turning to Vin. He seemed quite pleased with himself.
“So, did you Push him?” she asked.
Breeze shook his head. “Waste of brass. Did Kelsier tell you why he asked you to come here today?”
“He told me to watch you,” Vin said, a bit annoyed at being handed off to Breeze. “He said he didn’t have time to train me in all the metals.”
“Well,” Breeze said, “let us begin, then. First, you must understand that Soothing is about more than just Allomancy. It’s about the delicate and noble art of manipulation.”
“Noble indeed,” Vin said.
“Ah, you sound like one of them,” Breeze said.
“Them everyone else,” Breeze said. “You saw how that skaa gentleman treated me? People don’t like us, my dear. The idea of someone who can play with their emotions, who can ‘mystically’ get them to do certain things, makes them uncomfortable. What they do not realize—and what you must realize—is that manipulating others is something that all people do. In fact, manipulation is at the core of our social interaction.”
He settled back, raising his dueling cane and gesturing with it slightly as he spoke. “Think about it. What is a man doing when he seeks the affection of a young lady? Why, he is trying to manipulate her to regard him favorably. What happens when old two friends sit down for a drink? They tell stories, trying to impress each other. Life as a human being is about posturing and inﬂuence. This isn’t a bad thing—in fact, we depend upon it. These interactions teach us how to respond to others.”
He paused, pointing at Vin with the cane. “The difference between Soothers and regular people is that we are aware of what we’re doing. We also have a slight…advantage. But, is it really that much more ‘powerful’ than having a charismatic personality or a ﬁne set of teeth? I think not.”
“Besides,” Breeze added, “as I mentioned, a good Soother must be skilled far beyond his ability to use Allomancy. Allomancy can’t let you read minds or even emotions—in a way, you’re as blind as anyone else. You ﬁre off pulses of emotions, targeted at a single person or in an area, and your subjects will have their emotions altered—hopefully producing the effect that you wished. However, great Soothers are those who can successfully use their eyes and instincts to know how a person is feeling before they get Soothed.”
“What does it matter how they’re feeling?” Vin said, trying to cover her annoyance. “You’re just going to Soothe them anyway, right? So, when you’re done, they’ll feel how you want them to.”
Breeze sighed, shaking his head. “What would you say if you knew I’d Soothed you on three separate occasions during our conversation?”
Vin paused. “When?” she demanded.
“Does it matter?” Breeze asked. “This is the lesson you must learn, my dear. If you can’t read how someone is feeling, then you’ll never have a subtle touch with emotional Allomancy. Push someone too hard, and even the most blind of skaa will realize that they’re being manipulated somehow. Touch too softly, and you won’t produce a noticeable effect— other, more powerful emotions will still rule your subject.”
Breeze shook his head. “It’s all about understanding people,” he continued. “You have to read how someone is feeling, change that feeling by nudging it in the proper direction, then channel their newfound emotional state to your advantage. That, my dear, is the challenge in what we do! It is difﬁcult, but for those who can do it well…”
The door opened, and the sullen skaa man returned, bearing an entire bottle of wine. He put it and a cup on the table before Breeze, then went over to stand on the other side of the room, beside peepholes looking into the dining room.
“There are vast rewards,” Breeze said with a quiet smile. He winked at her, then poured some wine.
Vin wasn’t certain what to think. Breeze’s opinion seemed cruel. Yet, Reen had trained her well. If she didn’t have power over this thing, others would gain power over her through it. She started burning copper—as Kelsier had taught her—to shield herself from further manipulations on Breeze’s part.
The door opened again, and a familiar vest-wearing form tromped in. “Hey, Vin,” Ham said with a friendly wave. He walked over to the table, eyeing the wine. “Breeze, you know that the rebellion doesn’t have the money for that kind of thing.”
“Kelsier will reimburse them,” Breeze said with a dismissive wave. “I simply cannot work with a dry throat. How is the area?”
“Secure,” Ham said. “But I’ve got Tineyes on the corners just in case. Your bolt-exit is behind that hatch in the corner.”
Breeze nodded, and Ham turned, looking at Clubs’s apprentice. “You Smoking back there, Cobble?”
The boy nodded.
“Good lad,” Ham said. “That’s everything, then. Now we just have to wait for Kell’s speech.”
Breeze checked his pocket watch. “He’s not scheduled for another few minutes. Shall I have someone fetch you a cup?”
“I’ll pass,” Ham said.
Breeze shrugged, sipping his wine.
There was a moment of silence. Finally, Ham spoke. “So…”
“No,” Breeze interrupted.
“Whatever it is, we don’t want to hear about it.”
Ham gave the Soother a ﬂat stare. “You can’t Push me into complacence, Breeze.”
Breeze rolled his eyes, taking a drink.
“What?” Vin asked. “What were you going to say?”
“Don’t encourage him, my dear,” Breeze said.
Vin frowned. She glanced at Ham, who smiled.
Breeze sighed. “Just leave me out of it. I’m not in the mood for one of Ham’s inane debates.”
“Ignore him,” Ham said eagerly, pulling his chair a little bit closer to Vin. “So, I’ve been wondering. By overthrowing the Final Empire are we doing something good, or are we doing something bad?”
Vin paused. “Does it matter?”
Ham looked taken aback, but Breeze chuckled. “Well answered,” the Soother said.
Ham glared at Breeze, then turned back to Vin. “Of course it matters.”
“Well,” Vin said, “I guess we’re doing something good. The Final Empire has oppressed the skaa for centuries.”
“Right,” Ham said. “But, there’s a problem. The Lord Ruler is God, right?”
Vin shrugged. “Does it matter?”
Ham glared at her.
She rolled her eyes. “All right. The Ministry claims that he is God.”
“Actually,” Breeze noted, “the Lord Ruler is only a piece of God. He is the Sliver of Inﬁnity—not omniscient or omnipresent, but an independent section of a consciousness that is.”
Ham sighed. “I thought you didn’t want to be involved.”
“Just making certain everyone has their facts correct,” Breeze said lightly.
“Anyway,” Ham said. “God is the creator of all things, right? He is the force that dictates the laws of the universe, and is therefore the ultimate source of ethics. He is absolute morality.”
“You see the dilemma?” Ham asked.
“I see an idiot,” Breeze mumbled.
“I’m confused,” Vin said. “What’s the problem?”
“We claim to be doing good,” Ham said. “But, the Lord Ruler—as God—deﬁnes what is good. So, by opposing him we’re actually evil. But, since he’s doing the wrong thing, does evil actually count as good in this case?”
“Well?” Ham asked.
“I think you gave me a headache,” Vin said.
“I warned you,” Breeze noted.
Ham sighed. “But, don’t you think it’s worth thinking about?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I am,” Breeze said.
Ham shook his head. “No one around here likes to have decent, intelligent discussions.”
The skaa rebel in the corner suddenly perked up. “Kelsier’s here!”
Ham raised an eyebrow, then stood. “I should go watch the perimeter. Think about that question, Vin.”
“All right…” Vin said as Ham left.
“Over here, Vin,” Breeze said, rising. “There are peepholes on the wall for us. Be a dear and bring my chair over, would you?”
Breeze didn’t look back to see if she did as requested. She paused, uncertain. With her copper on, he couldn’t Soothe her, but…Eventually, she sighed and carried both chairs over to the side of the room. Breeze slid back a long, thin slat in the wall, revealing a view of the dining room.
A group of dirtied skaa men sat around tables, wearing brown work coats or ragged cloaks. They were a dark group, with ash-stained skin and slumped postures. However, their presence at the meeting meant that they were willing to listen. Yeden sat at a table near the front of the room, wearing his usual patched worker’s coat, his curly hair cut short during Vin’s absence.
Vin had expected some kind of grand entrance from Kelsier. Instead, however, he simply walked quietly out of the kitchen. He paused by Yeden’s table, smiling and speaking quietly with the man for a moment, then he stepped up before the seated workers.
Vin had never seen him in such mundane clothing before. He wore a brown skaa coat and tan trousers, like many of the audience. Kelsier’s outﬁt, however, was clean. No soot stained the cloth, and while it was of the same rough material that skaa commonly used, it bore no patches or tears. The difference was stark enough, Vin decided—if he’d come in a suit, it would have been too much.
He put his arms behind his back, and slowly the crowd of workers quieted. Vin frowned, watching through the peep slit, wondering at Kelsier’s ability to quiet a room of hungry men by simply standing before them. Was he using Allomancy, perhaps? Yet, even with her copper on, she felt a… presence from him.
Once the room fell quiet, Kelsier began to speak. “You’ve probably all heard of me, by now,” he said. “And, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t at least a little bit sympathetic to my cause.”
Beside Vin, Breeze sipped his drink. “Soothing and Rioting aren’t like other kinds of Allomancy,” he said quietly. “With most metals, Pushing and Pulling have opposite effects. With emotions, however, you can often produce the same result regardless of whether you Soothe or Riot.
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