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Thread: Nature's Kingdom [Original]

  1. #1
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Nature's Kingdom [Original]

    Hey people! Not sure if this is a good idea but I don't care I'm gonna do it. This story is an original project, part of a collaborative effort between my friends and I. Yes, this does take inspiration from the Nasuverse and other various fictional material, I'm letting you know that now. Think of it as something to sate your appetite between Fate releases. If you like the story and would like to help me out a bit, you can give a review on WebFictionGuide or simply vote here. (Please do that! Takes like 2 seconds)

    If you would like to support my writing please visit my Patreon or PayPal page. Some niffy rewards for people that donate can be seen here.

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    Art : Warmics
    -
    Nature's Kingdom
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    Summary:

    Worlds are changing. With the rapid increase of hallowed, metahumans, and superpowered beings, hints of events with cataclysmic proportion can be seen on the horizon.

    Phenomena that has not been witnessed since the Age of Gods.

    Mercy Gaunt, a somewhat popular teenage girl, finds her life turned upside down as she is dropped into the world of ‘Capes’ and mythical beings. A world of war, conspiracy, and political intrigue. Full of battles that have lasted millennia with deep grudges that had taken root in the past.

    As she remembers her childhood dream for utopia, Mercy must decide if she has what it takes to protect the people she loves.

    ---

    You can start by reading the prelude. Or you could skip that and start at chapter one while looking at the prelude later. I would recommend doing the latter option so you can get into
    the meat of the story without boring yourself and losing interest.



    Table of Contents:


    Volume 1: Into The Spirit


    A Prelude
    1
    2
    3


    Canto I - Awakening
    1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , I
    Ode: Mercy

    Canto II - Secrets
    8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 15

    - - - Updated - - -

    Nature's Kingdom


    Prologue I

    Seven full moons shone brilliantly in the clear night sky. A slight breeze traveled across the forest causing the leaves to rustle in the wind. Laying on a branch, a transparent spirit with the figure of a woman with deer-like antlers sprouting from her head gazed at the moons.

    “It’s a beautiful night,” Nature whispered to herself. “Don’t you think?”

    She glanced at the moons expectantly with her glowing white eyes. Looking down toward the forest floor Nature sighed. This peace will end soon, she thought grimly.

    The forest was especially quiet. Normally she preferred a lively forest, hearing the birds sing their beautiful songs, to feel the energy and emotions of the creatures around her. Nature could feel the growth of the trees, grass, shrubs, and bushes.

    The spirit wanted to relax and connect more to the forest, but now wasn’t the time. Raising her spirit energy, Nature warned the animals nearby to stay hidden in nightly shadows or to flee from the area.

    Darkness is coming…
    Last edited by Fluxx; August 21st, 2018 at 02:36 PM.

  2. #2
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Prologue II

    Ashley Hawke lounged in the back of her seat as she waited for the history teacher to finish speaking. Her mind in a daze, she almost fell asleep.

    That blissful state soon ended as she was disturbed by the sound of the class packing their books. Ashley turned to her left and looked up at the clock under the ceiling. Only a few minutes were left in class. Soon they would be free from the boring prison known as school.

    Ashley quickly packed her books even as the teacher complained about students packing up early. She didn’t care really; Mr. Tate never had the backbone to enforce his rules.

    Only two more minutes left in class. Ashley could hear the excited whispers of her fellow classmates as they began to talk about what they had planned for the weekend. The group of girls next to her talked quietly, smiling and making glances toward her.

    Ashley rolled her eyes in annoyance. The girls, six in all, were part of a popular clique of underclassmen. One that Ashley herself was the leader of. They were her so-called “friends” and were probably going to bug her about her weekend plans.

    As the bell rang and class was dismissed, Ashley retrieved her book bag from the floor next to her desk. As Ashley stood up and readied herself to leave, she was approached by two of her friends, smiling at her.

    “Ashley! Wait up!” Lorie said. The small blonde girl positioned herself between Ashley and the door. “We’re going out with the boys, remember?”

    Ashley narrowed her eyes but had a hint of a smile on her face. “Ah. Yeah. To the movies right?” Everyone was always trying to drag her around. No doubt Timothy would be there. He was known as a good-looking boy in her grade who made no intention of hiding his crush on her. Ashley shook her head a little. She liked having people that desired to be around her, but if they were annoying she would get irritated.

    It was only natural, though, that everyone would want to bask in the presence of a smart and beautiful girl like herself. But she was much more than that. Much more.

    She was a sophomore at Franklin High School, yet in some ways it felt like she ran the place. Ashley was a starter on the school volleyball and soccer team. The upperclassmen boys adored her while the girls secretly hated her. She was one of the most popular girls in school and almost always had the favor of the teachers. It was Ashley’s very being that drew others to her, and she knew it. It could be considered a blessing and a curse.

    That is what it means to be a god.

    Ashley walked outside of the class with her friends Lorie and Tonya. Heading toward her locker she could see the rest of her clique congregated around it. The girls were busy flirting with a group of boys nearby. Ashley could see Timothy with them. She caught him glancing at her with a smile.

    “Hmph!” Ashley huffed, grinning. Tonya took her smile as a reason to voice her opinion.

    “He’s pretty hot. And he likes you. I think he’s gonna ask you out,” Tonya said.

    “Not interested.”

    “What?”

    Tonya turned around and attempted to question Ashley about why she wouldn’t want a date with the perfect looking boy. Ashley waved her off. As Ashley put her books inside her locker compartment, she was swarmed with attention from the students around her area. She conversed with them a little until she found herself face to face with Timothy.

    Ashley had to look up to see the tall boy’s face. Tim’s grin became wider as she did.

    “Hey,” he said. “We’re going to the movies tonight, coming with?”

    There was a little tension in the air between them as he dropped those words. He was attractive. Ashley observed him for a moment unfazed. She looked over his well-kept brown hair and then looked straight into his piercing gray eyes.

    “I’ll be there,” she said.

    “I’ll pick you up,” Timothy replied.

    She wasn’t fond of the idea of being in a car with Tim, but she agreed to it anyway. Maybe she would get some amusement out of rejecting him tonight. He asked if she needed a ride home as well but she said no. Heading toward the school entrance she made her way toward the buses taking students home with her friends.

    Before making it to the door she almost found herself running into someone. It was another student. He apologized, embarrassed after almost crashing into her. Ashley frowned; how could someone be so absent-minded? The kinky haired boy glanced away as she viewed his face. He seemed nervous. Without even saying anything she continued walking on with the rest of her group. After a few steps, she turned her head back to look at the brown-skinned boy, who was rushing the opposite direction to his locker. He must have forgotten something.

    “So that’s my master, huh?” she asked quietly before turning back around.

    oOo

    Shaun Thompson stood in front of Franklin High School looking up at the name plastered on top of the three-story building. So this is where he would be teaching from now on, he thought. He began to walk up the wide flight of steps toward the school entrance with his briefcase in hand. As he opened the doors his shaggy black hair blew forward as a current of cold air from outside rushed into the school.

    As he entered the school building, he wondered what being a teacher at this school would be like. It wouldn’t be his first time teaching; he started as a substitute and teacher’s assistant for many years. However, this would be the first time he had a class all to himself.

    On top of that, the school was huge. There were a couple thousand students. Most were decent enough but in his opinion, there were a couple of bad apples.

    Shaun remembered yesterday when he was putting most of his items and teaching material the in his classroom. He could remember a student, a young girl getting harassed by a group of other girls. It was close by his classroom but Shaun opted to stay out of it. He wasn’t officially known as a teacher at the time and he had no problem with avoiding the issues of some teenage brats.

    Shaun was jolted out of his thoughts as he could hear the sound of clacking heels headed toward him. He stood up straight to face the brunette haired woman. She walked until she was a few feet in front of him.

    The woman gave him a warm smile and put out her hand.

    “You must be the new physics teacher!” she said. “I’m Selena Frazzle.”

    Shaun smiled slightly shaking her hand. “Hi, I’m Shaun Thompson.”

    “Oh! So you’re the young physics genius everyone was talking about,” Ms. Frazzle said. “I’ve heard a lot about you from Mr. Hardy. How old are you?”

    “Twenty-two ma’am,” he replied.

    “Wow, so you just graduated college?”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    “Just call me Selena.”

    Ms. Frazzle’s sparkling eyes were boring into Shaun almost as if they could see through him. Ms. Frazzle continued to ask questions. She then talked about the various teachers and departments of the school.

    “Well it was nice meeting you,” Ms. Frazzle finished.

    “Likewise,” Mr. Thompson said while looking around the hallway for the principal’s office.

    “Looking for principal’s office?” Ms. Frazzle asked. “I can take you there if you’d like.”

    Shaun agreed and walked with her through the expansive hallway. Ms. Frazzle began to talk absentmindedly about her favorite students and why she loved teaching English. Shaun observed her quietly.

    Something about her was bugging him. Ms. Frazzle was not his type, but even he could see that she was a beautiful woman. As his eyes traced over her form he noticed she was probably in her late twenties.

    None of that was really important, though. There was something else he could sense from her. A feeling of a certain energy but he couldn’t quite place it. Unhuman? He wasn’t able to confirm his suspicions, however.

    A loud crash was heard from around the hall stopping their conversation immediately.

    “What was that?” Shaun asked.

    “I have no idea,” Ms. Frazzle replied.

    She started to move faster, heading toward the disturbance.

    “It was one of the lockers. Come on, it sounded like a student fell.”

    Shaun sighed to himself and let Selena lead the way. Turning the corner he saw Ms. Frazzle frozen in place looking at the scene before her. A group of six girls and their blonde leader were bullying the same young girl he saw from before. It seemed as if they were trying to take books from her backpack. Shaun resisted the urge to shake his head. He really didn’t want to get involved, at least not this soon.

    “What are you doing!?” Ms. Frazzle asked.

    The girls remained silent, They were caught red-handed. Shaun was curious to see what excuses they would have. The blonde girl, the leader of the posse began to stalk off.

    Ms. Frazzle nearly grabbed her but stopped as the blonde girl turned around to look at her.

    “You’re not going anywhere, young lady, you have explaining to do along with your friends. Why were you hurting that girl?”

    “Me?” Ashley scowled. “I had nothing do with this. I wasn’t even next to her like them.”

    Ashley pointed her index finger at the other girls. “They mess with Katherine here to please me since she doesn’t talk with us anymore. But I can care less. It’s not like I tell them to do it.”

    “Hey!” Nicole said.

    “Ashley!?” Lorie exclaimed.

    The girls moaned in protest as Ashley threw them under the bus. She ignored them.

    “No. You’re just here to encourage your little entourage, is that it?” Ms. Frazzle said.

    “If you have a problem give me a write-up slip and send me the Principal. I should take full responsibility for those that are mine, no?”

    Ashley stalked off without saying another word.

    Shaun glanced at Ms. Frazzle with the side of his eyes. She frowned, her face flushing with anger, and yet it seemed as if she had let Ashley walk away. Was that fear he saw in Ms. Frazzle’s expression? Shaun turned his face to look back at where the blonde girl had been.

    Ashley had looked familiar… Like a certain being from that place…

    After a moment Shaun and Ms. Frazzle resumed walking through the hallway, both of them quiet.

    They had finally reached the principal’s office. As they entered the room they were greeted by Principal Hardy, who was just getting off the phone.

    “Ah, thank you Ms. Frazzle. I see you’ve acquainted yourself with Mr. Thompson. That’s good.” The Principal said. He turned to face Shaun. “And how are you finding everything? Ready for Monday?”

    “Yes Sir,” Shaun replied.

    Ms. Frazzle quietly excused herself as he continued his conversation with Mr. Hardy. Shaun glanced at Ms. Frazzle as she left, her eyes catching his own. She simply smiled at him as she left the room.

    oOo


    Selena Frazzle looked across the long stairway window viewing the campus grounds with a smile. She was watching the new physics teacher, Mr. Thompson, make his way back to the parking lot. He must have been done unpacking for the evening. They had just come from a meeting with the school principal after they witnessed the event earlier.

    Selena didn’t bring up the situation with Ashley to principal Hardy, knowing that it would cause more problems than it was worth. However, she made sure to threaten the other bullies with suspension if they continued to harass that girl. She noted that Shaun also refrained from telling Mr. Hardy about what he witnessed.

    Selena really had no reason to stay at school. She was unnecessarily waiting for an acquaintance, but she didn’t mind. Selena turned her head to the side as she was approached by her coworker.

    “What are you doing standing here?” Mrs. Armstrong asked.

    Selena smiled raising her hands up in defense. “Nothing really.”

    Mrs. Armstrong looked over her shoulder out the window. She had seen who Selena was looking at.

    “Right. So what do you think of him?”

    “He seems pretty cute,” Selena said. She couldn’t hide anything from Mrs. Armstrong, but of course she never really cared to. “I don’t think he’s my type, though.”

    “You seemed content staring at him for an hour.”

    “Please, it wasn’t an hour, ” Selena said. She tilted her head, thinking. “Maybe I should try to seduce him?”

    “Really, shitting where you eat?”

    “Nah, only kidding,” Selena said with a laugh. “Speaking of which, aren’t you treating me out to dinner?”

    “If you’re paying.”

    “Oh come on.”

    Selena walked down the stairs while finalizing her dinner plans with Mrs. Armstrong. She quickly took a glance at the school parking lot. Mr. Thompson’s car was finally gone. Selena smiled again to herself.

    It looks like things are starting to get interesting.

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; July 26th, 2018 at 10:21 AM.

  3. #3
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Prologue III

    Bushes rustled in the forest clearing below. Out of the forest shadows appeared a short man with small ivory bullhorns and long curly brown hair.

    Raven, a tall teenage boy, formally dressed in a suit and tie, with jet black hair and thin glasses stood next to him. The boy viewed the forest treetops with a tired expression. It felt different for Raven traveling through the forest on foot. He would exercise often so endurance wasn't his issue, however, he used to the comfort and high-speed monorails in his home, Kingdom City. Overall, he acknowledged that doing something different every once in a while would be good for him.

    “Come, Raven. We are here,” Taurus said as he faced the boy.

    “I see,” Raven replied. Watching his surroundings carefully, he walked across the clearing. It seemed as if Taurus could tell that the Raven felt uncomfortable.

    “It is wise to observe your environment but you should do so relaxed and still. If the enemy is experienced your fear will invite them to a group of vultures on rotten kill.” Taurus walked to a cluster of rocks and sat down with a grunt. “Besides, Aryva Vasta is the safest territory in Foresta.”

    “Of course, sir,” Raven said unconvinced. “I’m just surprised we haven’t seen any serpent-elves in their supposed territory.”

    The short man chuckled in amusement.

    “Have I taught you nothing boy?” he continued on as Raven narrowed his eyes. “Silence your mind, control your breath and focus on the energy in the core of your body. Then push your awareness outwards.”

    Raven closed his eyes and did as the man asked. It was easy to quiet his mind as he had practiced many times before. The various feelings of fear, uncertainty, and doubt melted away in the background. For the first time since the day began Raven felt peace of mind.

    Raven inhaled deeply as he moved his awareness from his body to the surrounding environment. In his mind’s eye, he began to see many little glowing balls of white light and waves of energy.

    Plants and animals, Raven thought.

    Raven felt as if he was being watched. He could sense the presence of ominous beings in shadows around the short man and himself. Raven started to lose concentration, he knew they were being spied upon but he could not identify the location of the perpetrators.

    Who were they?

    Raven couldn't get a read on them at all.

    He began to see huge spheres of light packed with energy appeared slowly in his mind’s eye. Raven quickly opened his eyes to the sound of rustling bushes.

    He was greeted by an assembly of human looking creatures with snake-like eyes and sharp ears. Serpent-elves. Were they hiding their presence? He glanced up at the treetops. The elves were all around them, positioned in the canopies and on the ground below.

    Raven was shocked that he was unable to notice before they revealed themselves, with how near they were.

    A tall serpent-elf stepped forward. From the jeweled crown on her head, anyone could tell she was royalty. Gleaming golden armbands and necklaces surrounded her in an aura of light, calculated to impress anyone looking upon her. She cast a brief smile of acknowledgment at Raven, who flinched and cast his eyes away. Then she turned to Taurus, who appeared less awed by her entrance. “It's been a while Taurus.”

    “Naga Lakshmi,” Taurus replied, with a brief nod.

    Naga’s eyes glittered with amusement. Taurus seemed weary of her.

    “What’s wrong Taurus? No warm greeting for an old friend?”

    “You are no friend of mine,” Taurus muttered.

    Naga showed an expression of mock disbelief. “How rude! Is that the way you greet a Queen?” She pouted. “After all this time I waited to see you.”

    Taurus sighed closing his eyes. “Must you be so loud in the middle of the night? Why did Nature call me out here for this?”

    Naga ignored his questions and waved her hand toward Raven. “Are you going to introduce me to your new apprentice?”

    “Ah yes.” Taurus glanced at Raven and beckoned him forward with is hand. “Naga, this is Raven one of my greatest students.” He explained. “Raven, this is Naga the magnificent Queen of the serpent-elves.”

    A mischievous smile widened across Naga’s face. “You flatter me. But then again, I am Queen of the great Sagittaria family, unlike the lesser Earthenware family. So, I must be very magnificent.”

    Raven eyes widened, impressed to see her in person. The Sagittaria family was highly known throughout Avalon as the one of strongest of the Ten Royal Families, second only to the Hayzel family. The Earthenware was also a part of that class of families, led by Taurus. Usually, the leader of a family was an Avalonian with the highest vapor or spirit energy.

    Raven wondered how strong Naga's power really was.

    “Bah!” Taurus waved his hand in the air, annoyed. “How long have you and your little group of treehoppers been spying on us?”

    “Don’t insult us. We’ve have been waiting here at the meeting point since this evening,” Naga said. “I wouldn’t send my royal guard out just to spy on you. You’re not nearly as important as you think you are. You should take the advice you gave to your apprentice.”

    “I knew you were here,” Taurus said slowly. "I just wanted to know for how long.”

    “Of course.”

    Raven watched both of them with interest. He always considered himself good at reading people. Raven loved to observe others especially those of high status. He enjoyed predicting how people would act, guessing how they really thought about things so he could get what he wanted. But as far as high status went Taurus and Naga were unusual. They bickered publicly. Like siblings that were not being watched by him and the legion of serpent-elves in hidden in the shadows.

    Raven turned his attention toward a serpent-elf that approached Naga from behind.

    “My Queen, the other guests have arrived.”

    As he finished speaking two men wearing dark-colored military uniforms appeared from the bushes and walked slowly into the clearing. Raven almost had trouble seeing them.

    Glyden Manus, the man smoking a cigarette, looked like an ordinary human with blond hair, blue eyes, and a beard. The other was muscular with long red hair, cat-like eyes, and small tiger ears. Kray Malgox. Raven knew Kray was a formidable warrior after hearing about his exploits across Avalon, but he was subservient to the blond man.

    Taurus kept his distance but Naga quickly moved to greet them.

    “Glyden, Kray, Welcome,” she said as she shook hands with Glyden and gave Kray a tight hug. It was an embrace so tight that Raven thought Kray would jump out of his skin.

    However, the tiger eared man stayed in place and softly returned the gesture.

    “It’s good to see you again, Master,” Kray said.

    Naga released him slowly and smiled. “How are things in Guardian?”

    “It’s been” Kray had stopped abruptly as Glyden raised his hand to silence him. Naga narrowed her emerald eyes but her piercing gaze did not faze Glyden in the slightest.

    “I know you would like to catch-up, but you can do that later. I’m sure you both received the message from Nature about what were are here to discuss,” Glyden shifted his view from Naga to Taurus.

    “Of course,” Naga replied first. “I was told by one of my messengers. Something about the rise of Eternalists attacks and the disappearances of Avalonians?”

    “Correct.”

    Taurus shifted uncomfortably on the rocks he was seated on. “Are the Eternalists that much of a problem that we have to meet here the middle of the night to chatter like bumbling jackdaws?”

    “Yes,” Glyden said seriously. “And you should know. If it's bad enough that Nature has decided to step in and get involved it's important. There has been an increase of Eternalist activity near Polyanima.”

    “The school? Of course,” Naga sighed. She probably already knew this information. “I'm sure you know of the reason?”

    “I have Intel and some theories, but I think Taurus would be the best person to answer that question.”

    Raven tried to hide his smile. Taurus was the chancellor of Polyanima Academy, the biggest well-renowned school in Kingdom City, full of thousands of students.

    Taurus was very good at his job, but even Raven could admit that he didn't really know the student body personally and that there was a disconnect between him and most students. Raven and others on the student council were really the only children Taurus went out of his way to communicate with.

    He left most work dealing with the student body to them. It would be very hard for him to find out if anything was suspicious was going on.

    Taurus frowned and crossed his arms. “I have everything at my school under control. There’s been no news of attacks or anything out of the ordinary.”

    Glyden slightly bent the tip of his hat over his face. “So you say, but we need to stop this before it gets worse. The Eternalists have more supporters than we've have realized. Remnants of that Maker cult have merged with them as well. They may decide to join the Empire invade Guardian territory from the inside out.”

    "The Makers were obliterated by the Elder Gods themselves," Taurus said. "Any speck of those fools that still exist are of no consequence."

    "True," Glyden replied. With a small puff of his cigarette, he faced Naga and Taurus as he continued. “But remember, we, the Three Grand Masters are the last line of defense for the freedom of Avalon from the Duskanian Empire. The Avalonian people are relying on us.”

    As he finished silence filled the clearing. It was so quiet Raven thought he could hear a pin drop. The elves hidden in undergrowth did not speak. Taurus and Naga were equally quiet.

    The general of the Guardian military was quite intense.
    But Glyden was right, the Duskanian Empire was constantly expanding its borders. The king of the Duskanian Empire, Dusk, had stolen technology and weapons from an advanced alien civilization. Because of this, he was able to rule over most of Avalon with greater efficiency. He even sent troops to the stars to conquer other planets across the galaxy. Guardian and its allied nations were some of the only territories on the planet hidden from Dusk's grasp and they had to be protected.

    With another puff of smoke, Glyden glanced around the clearing. “Kimba is late,” he said. “Didn't he say he would be here?”

    “Shouldn't you know? You work under him after all,” Taurus sneered.

    Glyden ignored him.

    Naga closed her eyes sighed quietly to herself. “There is no way in creation that Kimba would miss Nature's summons, but he always had a bad habit of being late when it matters most.”

    She slowly placed her hands on her hips and leaned to one side. “If we are waiting for him we might be here all night.”

    Naga gracefully went to join Taurus sitting a pile of rocks. Surprisingly, Raven could not help but admire her. He would almost say that she was his type, but he quickly moved those thoughts from his mind. She was royalty and too old for him anyway.

    “But if it's among friends, I don't mind,” she continued glancing down at her legs somewhat wistful look in her eyes.

    “How long has it been?” She asked. “Since we've all been together like this?”

    Glyden and Taurus both smiled slightly. It may have seemed to any ordinary outsider that the Grand Masters did not care much for one another.

    Raven knew better, though, he could almost feel the warmth they had for one another. As if they had been through countless life and death experiences together.

    All fell silent as everyone heard a large rustling sound in the bushes. Raven noticed the serpent-elves bowing, making way for a tall creature.

    Out of the shadows appeared a large man with red hair like the main of a lion and large clawed hands. He had on a worn brown robe and dark boots. He walked toward the center of the clearing, his tail whipping slowly around the air.

    “So you three are finally getting along eh?” Kimba said with a strong deep voice. “My apologies... I was very busy preparing for the arrival of the Galactic Federation,”

    “Late as always,” Taurus grumbled. “Since when have we not gotten along?”

    Kimba eyed him curiously but remained silent.

    Naga smiled walked to greet Kimba. “It's good to see you again Kimba, it's been too long.”

    Glyden nodded in agreement.

    “Likewise,” Kimba said. “Seeing you three together here reminds me of the days we used to travel and train together all throughout Avalon.”

    Naga smiled. “You weren't the only one who trained us then. What about your brothers and sisters? Did you forget about them?”

    Kimba looked at Naga with playful eyes. “Yes, my five wonderful, pain in the tail siblings. I must have forgotten.”

    Naga chuckled.

    Kimba faced Taurus and had a good look at Raven. “Ah Taurus, you have finally taken on a new apprentice?” he asked. “What is your name?”

    “Raven, sir.”

    “I see. Nice to meet you, Raven.”

    “It is an honor, leader of Guardian.”

    Raven observed Kimba trying to figure him out. He had a huge menacing form even bigger than Kray, and he was warrior-born as well. His kind playfulness seemed genuine but he looked like he demanded respect.

    “We were a handful back then. Always causing trouble,” Kimba sighed tilting the side of his head toward Raven. “But some things never change.”

    “I agree.”

    As Glyden spoke everyone focused their attention on him. “Your brother has been very trigger happy of late,” he said.

    It was then when Raven realized who Glyden was referring too. Technically, though they were not the same species, Dusk and Kimba were siblings.

    Glyden pulled up sleeve the left arm on his uniform revealing a small watch. Pressing a small button, a large hologram projection formed up in the air, giving light to the forest darkness.

    “We've found groups of Empire soldiers advancing from the Desertus and Montanum continents," Glyden said. "Some Empire forces had even broken through our front-line and made it to the Sabana territories. We've eliminated them but Dusk seems interested in capturing Guardian again. And that's not all,” He went on. “People are disappearing. The Eternalists have become a lot more active in Sabana recently. They must have learned something regarding that event ten years ago.”

    “The Bloodstained Festival? I wonder,” Kimba mused.

    Raven grimaced. The Bloodstained Festival. It was the name of the horrendous event, in which a rebellious group tried to take down the Empire. But that was in Empire territory. What did it have to do with Guardian?

    “Even though he blamed Guardian for those attacks, I'm sure Dusk knows it wasn't us,” Kimba began. “And I doubt the Eternalists were responsible, but both may have found out about something they were looking for.”

    “Such as?”

    “A super-weapon.”

    Suddenly, an explosion blasted through the left side of the clearing. Huge trees fell down with a crash. An alluring flame erupted from the explosion lighting the night forest.

    “What the hell is that?” Raven exclaimed.

    From the flame appeared a five clay like floating golem creatures. A fireball of rock and flame was ejected from the mouth of one of the golems closest to the people in the clearing.

    “Get down!” Taurus shoved Raven down the ground as the ball of flame narrowly missed him. The fireball exploded in the middle of the clearing.

    Smoke flooded the area making it hard to for Raven to look around. He could no longer see Taurus next to him.

    “Taurus! Where are you?” Raven yelled. He looked around looked around in the smoke furiously. He could hear yells and more explosions of fire.

    What was happening?

    Raven could hear Naga shout over the commotion. “We are under attack! Protect this forest with your lives!”

    Raven could feel a muscular body bump into him. Startled he turned around quickly prepared to face his opponent. Raven was about the punch the figure until he realized who it was.

    “Relax kid, it's just me,” Kray said.

    Raven was about to breathe a sigh of relief when he was pushed out the way by Kray. A giant golem fist smashed into the ground between them, right where Raven was standing.

    Kray's body began to morph in the form of a tiger with scarlet fur as he barred his fangs. He unsheathed razor sharp claws and raised his spirit energy, filling the air with a pressure so dense for a moment Raven had trouble moving. Such powerful vapor...

    “Find Taurus and get out of here,” Kray growled. “I can handle this,”

    Kray ran to engage the rock beast. He moved fast and with agility, dodging raining blows from the golem-like creature. Kray managed to rake is claws against the golem chest leaving three large cuts. But then the golem swung its arm attempting to hit Kray in the stomach.

    Before he was touched, Kray had caught Golem's arm with his forepaws. Then in mid-air, Kray proceeded to lift and throw the beast at the rockpile in the middle of the clearing, shattering half of the Golem's body into pieces.

    As Kray turned back into his humanoid form, a smaller Golem prepared to launch another flaming ball of rock toward them. Raven sprinted toward the Golem with an even stride.

    “Wait!” Kray shouted.

    “I can fight too,” he replied.

    Raven slid as golem released the flame ball barely dodging the attack. He turned around and rolled out the way to avoid the beast's arm as it smashed into the ground.

    "Here goes nothing..." Raven muttered.

    Raven jumped on top of the Golem's arm and ran up its shoulder. Quickly, he jumped again to prevent himself from being sideswiped by the Golem's hand on the opposite side. Raven felt his chest fill up with spirit energy. He transferred it to his legs and hit the creature in the face with a knee strike. The Golem tumbled down to the ground landing with a thud.

    “Well that was easy,” he said with a smirk. Raven dusted himself off and looked around the battlefield feeling a little good about himself.

    “Look out!”

    Raven heard a voice but it was too late. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the golem had risen from the ground. It was in an attack stance ready to blindside him with a powerful blow. Raven cursed.

    The golem abruptly came to a complete halt. Raven eyes widened as he spotted a long red sword sticking out of the rock monster's chest gleaming from the light of the flames. The one who held the hilt was none other than Naga Lakshmi.

    “Raven dear, you have such a cocky smile I could almost fall for you,” Naga said amused. "But please, remember to make sure the enemy is dead before you gloat.”

    Raven could do nothing but grin back at her as she joked. He moved out of the way as Naga asked before the golem fell head first into the ground. He took a look at the sword in her left hand. It was blood red, but it wasn't because of the golems.

    Upon closer inspection, Raven realized that the sword wasn't metal at all, but liquid infused with spiritual energy. He looked closer at her finger noticed a little cut on her otherwise unblemished skin.

    Blood manipulation.

    “These golems are from the Cadmian family right?" Naga mused. “Why would they attack us?” Naga seemed as if she were in deep thought. “We don't have a feud with the Cadmian family...” she muttered. Raven had guessed she was thinking about her family, the Sagittaria, in particular. They were both part of the Ten Royal Families after all.

    "And this why I said it was stupid for all of us to meet out here, especially since we could just use the Iridescent Mirror from the comfort of our own homes," Taurus said. Out of thin air, he landed next to Raven and joined them.

    “These golems aren't normal,” he confirmed. “The people wearing the hoods must be controlling them.”

    The three viewed Kray, Glyden, and the other serpent-elves fighting off the other golems. The serpent-elves chipped away at the stone enemies alternating between using blade weapons or bows and arrows. Kimba even took on two at once destroying them with his bare fists, but it wasn't enough. The defeated golems began to regenerate repairing the injuries to their bodies.

    “Regeneration... that's not normal for a golem either,” Naga remarked.

    Taurus cursed under his breath. “It's dark magic, they're no longer living. We will definitely be here all night now.”

    The three of them quickly turned around as they sensed enemy vapor. The rock creature that Naga just slew had gotten up, ready to attack again.

    “If we're here any longer I'll miss out on my beauty sleep,” Naga said mischievously. She glanced at Taurus with a smile. “Taurus, why don't we get a little serious?”

    Taurus humphed with a grin. "Just don't feel bad if you can't keep up,” He said as they both started raised their vapor levels.
    Then, they immediately stopped and looked up in the air. Their eyes widened.

    Raven's head shot up to see what they were staring at. He saw something that he could not put into words. A transparent spirit with the figure of a woman and deer-like antlers floated in the middle of the air looking below at the burning smoke filled clearing. Everyone, even the golems stopped fighting and watched.

    The hooded Eternalists viewed it as their cue to make their escape.

    Nature began to sing a song, not with words but a pleasant sounding cry. Clouds began to cover the sky. Thunder bellowed throughout the forest, and rain started to poor. The flames of battle dissipated. The spirit then raised her right hand and sang a different song. Raven looked on baffled as the golems physical forms broke apart into scraps of light. The energy returned to the spirit's hand in the form a small glowing ball.

    “What is made from dust returns to dust,” she whispered.

    The ball of light split into eight directions traveling across unknown lands afar. Nature slowly descended and landed on the forest surface. Her spirit energy could be felt through the air for miles, but it wasn't dense hard pressure like most strong Avalonians. It was like a present aroma that made one feel as if it had lifted their feet from off the ground and sent them to the stars.

    For a moment everyone was quiet. Kimba was the first to speak.

    “If you had let me know of this meeting earlier teacher, I would have come bearing gifts,” he said.

    Teacher?

    “I did not think tonight would be so eventful," Kimba continued.

    Nature smiled. “You cannot give me what I already have,” she said. She glanced at everyone around the clearing.

    Naga stepped forward and bowed. “Praise be your name goddess,” The serpent-elves behind her copied in unison. Nature raised a hand and shook her head slowly. “Then call me by my name,” she said. “Naga, you know I have always preferred that.”

    “Yes Nature, my apologies,” Naga said quickly. If she was embarrassed she hid it well. Taurus sneered but did not speak.

    Glyden was the next to step forward. “Welcome back to the world, Nature. What brings you to the material realm?” He continued. “You haven't been seen physically for the last twelve months, you must have good reason to call us here.”

    “Even as a young boy, you were always sharp Glyden,” Nature said. “You three have grown well,” Nature gazed at the moons in the night sky. She must have dissipated the clouds.

    “Seven thousand years ago you were but small cubs, but now you all are competent leaders of your people,” she mentioned with an affectionate tone in her voice.

    “A lot has happened since you and the other Elders refused to intervene in Avalonian affairs,” Kimba said. “Dusk has taken power and threatens everyone, even those you've birthed across the stars.”

    “I know,” Nature said solemnly. “It has been too long without true peace. It is time I help return balance to this place.”

    “There has been a disturbance in the vapor across the realms. I am beginning the melding ritual for this millennium earlier because of this." Nature said. She paused for a moment before speaking again.

    "Dusk is looking for the Fallen Star,” She continued. “He had almost found it but I have kept it from him.”

    There was a collective gasp from the group listeners. Raven was not surprised. Even he had heard of the Fallen Star in children tales and mythology books. The Fallen Star was the strongest out of twelve artifacts created by the Elder Gods to moderate the spiritual energy of the world. It was also said to be able to grant any wish of the user. For the most part, many Avalonians did not believe it actually existed. Raven had no doubt in his mind that it was real now.

    Nature began to speak again. “I have left it with you in Kingdom City. Please do not use it unless I give you permission.” Nature's feet slowly lifted up as she started to float in the air.

    Everyone in the clearing tensed up at that revelation. Raven was particularly interested in the reactions of Naga, Taurus, Glyden, and Kimba. They tried to play it off but it seemed to Raven that they all felt uncomfortable with sharing something so powerful.

    Maybe the Kimba and the Grand Masters were actually a little wary of one another.

    However, no one had dared to question Nature about it. Trusting the four of them with something as powerful as the Fallen Star meant that she was serious and that giving it to them was the best choice.

    "I trust you to guard it well," Nature said. It seemed as if she could feel the tension extruded between the four leaders.

    “It was good to talk with you all again,” Nature said. She gave Raven a penetrating look as if she were evaluating him. Raven straightened up but remained quiet. As she started to fade away Taurus spoke up.

    “When will we see you again?” he asked.

    “Soon,” she replied simply. “But Taurus, know this... I am always with you.”

    oOo

    Raven silently hid in the bushes of the undergrowth. He was careful to not be seen by Kray or the serpent-elves as Kimba and the Grand Masters had told them to leave the area. The four of them were sitting down crossed legged next to small fireplace speaking about something in secret, and Raven wanted to know what it was about.

    “...there has to be a better reason than that, this is Sagittaria territory,” Naga said tensely.

    “What are you getting at Naga?” Taurus asked exasperatedly.

    “There is a spy in Guardian. How else would Eternalists know we were meeting here?”

    “How do you know that it wasn't a serpent-elf?” Taurus asked.

    “We wouldn't compromise our own home,” She went on. “If one of my own betrayed us, believe me, I would know.”

    Taurus glanced at Glyden and Kimba. "It's possible someone saw us traveling through Artisans and tipped the Eternalists off."

    "Audrey Genia wouldn't be happy to know that there are terrorist supporters in her own country," Naga said after a sigh. She rubbed her head softly with one hand. "If she were to learn of this attack she would probably accuse us of putting the Artisans homeland in danger."

    Glyden blew a puff smoke from his newest cigarette. “So hypothetically, if there were a traitor or Eternalist cells in the Guardian or Artisans territories what would we do about it?”

    “Same as always,” Kimba responded. “Take caution, protect our borders and tell your secrets to only those you trust.”

    Kimba stood up and looked straight into the center of the vibrant flame. “Soon the Galactic Federation will arrive to aid us and we have Nature our side. No matter what the threat is against us we will be ready.”

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; July 30th, 2018 at 01:11 PM.

  4. #4
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Dec 2014
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    167
    Two Girls, An Angel, and The Fox

    I laid down on the bed with a thud, my mind in a daze. My head hurt, my brain was fuzzy and I couldn't really think.

    Did I throw up?

    Broken images appeared in my mind. Images of young children playing together in an open field next to a giant castle. I was there with them in that clearing, running around—my long reddish-brown hair swaying in the wind, as happy as I could be.

    A memory?

    No that couldn't be right. I must have been dreaming.

    There were many of us, children that lived at the castle. The castle of the Dragon King. It was in the land of three suns. A world that had seven moons. A magical place full of mythical creatures, anthropomorphic beings, and even people.

    Among those that had lived in the castle, my twin and I only had a few close friends. But they were the best in the world. There were nine of us, some children of royalty and some of the servants. Some were girls, some were boys. We'd practically spend every waking moment together.

    The two older kids of the group—A girl that had teeth like a vampire and a boy with angel wings, would often watch us, at the request of the adults. To make sure we didn't get into too much trouble.

    I couldn't remember their names, but I thought of them fondly.

    Nothing could take the happiness that we shared away from us.

    The lands outside were rampant with war and corruption, but we were kept safe by those castle walls.

    More vivid images assaulted my mind. I could remember watching a child being dragged off to the dungeon with his family by guards for execution. His parents were convicted of treason. The King's daughter, the crown princess, and I were distraught. But there was nothing we could do.

    I remembered seeing people being slaughtered in the capital streets as enemy militia tried to lay siege to the castle. The fallout was terrible for both sides. Many dead bodies littered the city streets. Civilians were even caught in the crossfire.

    After witnessing that, I wished for something to change. I wished for a better world. A place where people didn't have to fight and die, like nothing. A place where people could always get their needs taken care of so war and destruction could be avoided.

    I made a promise to my sister after that day.

    I told Tiffany I'd do whatever I could to create that place.

    That utopia.

    The strange images left my mind, fading out slowly. I started to forget about the vivid memory-like dreams.

    Coming to, I found myself back on the bed in a small room. I opened my eyes. My vision was still blurry and I couldn't feel my face. A teenage boy hovered over top of me. He was holding down my arms above my head.

    What was going on?

    I knew who he was. Timothy. My ex-boyfriend. I looked around the small room glancing at the wall filled with movie and band posters. We were in his room.

    I remembered.

    He was throwing a house party at night after the school football game. His parents weren't home for the weekend, so he'd have the huge house all to himself. Tiffany, her boyfriend Terra Eatos, and I decided to stop by on a whim. Somehow I had gotten myself into this mess.

    I must have been drinking like an idiot.

    Timothy leaned downward, his body pressing against mine. He smelled nice. His lips around my neck felt pleasant. But... something wasn't right.

    "What happened?" I asked in a slurred voice.

    Timothy ignored my questions as he continued to feel me up.

    A spark of fear started to travel down my spine. I shifted my body attempting to roll away from him. "Stop it," I said, more urgently.

    Timothy's grip tightened holding me in place.

    "Relax."

    I made a groan in complaint.

    The smile on his face changed to a dissatisfied frown.

    "Come on Mercy," he urged. "You still like me don't you?"

    I was confused by his question. My head was still fuzzy. Didn't he break up with me? I closed my eyes. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter was that I still had feelings for him.

    "Y-yes," I said, the words escaping my lips before I could hold them back.

    Timothy smirked, pleased with my answer.

    He proceeded to move his face downward in an attempt to kiss me. He immediately stopped as the door to his room was busted open. Tiffany quickly walked in with an angry expression on her face. Terra was not far behind.

    Tiffany rocked the same low braided pigtail look I did, but wore a darker outfit compared to me, composed of a black off-shoulder tee and low cut pixie shorts. Terra wore a tight hoodie with jeans. Terra looked very feminine and his long brown hair did nothing to alleviate that fact. He was often mistaken for a girl before people heard him speak.

    Timothy quickly stood up and backed away as my sister ran to me.

    "What the fuck are you doing!?" she shouted, giving Timothy a glare that could kill.

    "I was just—" Timothy started, trying to explain himself while approaching us.

    "Terra!" she said.

    Terra immediately moved to intercept Timothy, grabbing his arm to hold him back.

    Timothy tsked. "Are you fucking serious?" he asked in a loud voice, clearly annoyed.

    "Back off, and stop moving," Terra said, holding a struggling Timothy from moving away. "This? What you're doing here? It's not cool."

    Timothy rolled his eyes, his lips widened into a smirk. "We were just having a little fun," he said offhandedly.

    Tiffany frowned and made a sound akin to a snarl. "Bullshit! You tried to fucking rape my sister!"

    Timothy shook his head in exasperation. His body seemed tenser than a moment before. Terra still didn't let him go, his silverish eyes were trained on him.

    "What the hell are you even talking about? She agreed to come up here with me and one thing led to another," Timothy said. "We wouldn't even be in this position if she didn't want it."

    "She's fucking drunk, you fuckhead," Tiffany said. "She's practically passed out here!"

    Tiffany shook her head. "I should have expected this from a fuckboy like you. I don't know what Mercy sees in you."

    "Look alright, I'll back off. We're all pretty buzzed. A bad judgment call. I wasn't thinking clearly."

    "No shit, rapist," Tiffany muttered with a glare.

    "Oh fuck off, Tiffany," Timothy said, his calm facade cracking. "Always starting some bullshit."

    "Believe me, I'm finishing it too."

    Timothy laughed. It didn't sound nice. He glanced at Terra still keeping him away from us. Timothy finally shrugged off Terra's hand. Terra must've loosened his grip.

    "What?" Timothy asked. "You gonna fight me too, pretty boy?"

    Terra gave him a look then shook his head. "Nah," he said quietly.

    Timothy chuckled. "Wow. Not gonna fight your girlfriend's battles for once? I'm surprised. You're not as whipped as I thought."

    Terra scoffed. "Anyone of us could kick your ass. Even Mercy when she gets better."

    Timothy frowned and gave him a sour look. "I'm sure," he said dryly.

    He shouldered past Terra, walking to the doorway of his room. Loud music could be heard blasting from downstairs as he creaked open the door. "You can let Mercy rest in my bed. I need to get back to the party before those guys run out of control. See you guys downstairs," he paused. "Or not."

    He left.

    Terra watched him go. A hard fist connected with his shoulder.

    Terra flinched away from Tiffany after she hit him.

    "Why didn't you punch him?" she asked.

    One side of Terra's lips quirked upward. "I thought you were gonna do it."

    "Yeah, I would have if you did. We could have beaten him up together. It would be a good bonding experience for our relationship."

    Terra laughed.

    There was a moment of silence as they glanced at me in a pitiful semi-conscious state.

    "I want to kill him," Tiffany murmured. "I wanna fuck him up."

    "Things might end up pretty badly if we did do that to him," Terra said. "Especially, in his own home."

    "Yeah. I know. I'm just venting."

    I stirred. Tiffany and Terra automatically focused their attention on me.

    "...You guys," I muttered.

    "Hey there, Ems," Tiffany said softly, cupping the side of my face with a warm hand. "How do you feel?"

    oOo


    We had left the party earlier, none of us wanting to spend more time at Timothy's place. Terra had gone home, while Tiffany insisted we walk home alone since our house was pretty close by. We had to figure out a way to sneak in the house without our parents noticing. No big deal, right?

    I rubbed my forehead with a hand as we walked down the empty sidewalk. It still hurt. I still had a throbbing headache. My sister had gently explained what happened. Thoughts of Timothy and my relationship with him came to the forefront of my mind.

    Did he still have feelings for me? I thought he was trying to get with Ashley. It seemed like it from how he was flirting with her at the party, how he looked at me from across the room to make sure I could see him.

    What he did—trying to force himself on me while I was out of it... I had felt violated.

    It was stupid to let myself be so vulnerable around him, especially since I knew I hadn't gotten over him. It was stupid for us to go to the house party in the first place.

    "You alright?" Tiffany asks, pulling me out of my depressive thoughts.

    I paused for a moment before shaking my head. "I'm fine."

    We continue to walk down the dark neighborhood street. "I hope Mom and Dad haven't figured out we've been out the whole night."

    "You worry too much."

    "Really? You know how they’re always up late."

    "We'll sneak in the same way we got out, through the basement cellar door. We can wait for them to go to sleep if they're still bumbling around the living room."

    "And if they wake up while we're going upstairs?"

    Tiffany sighed in exasperation. "Don't worry about it. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

    "If you say so—"

    My voice stopped abruptly as I saw a light flashing in the air. I gasped. A comet, bright and golden traveled through the air at an incomprehensible speed. Heading straight for us.

    Before the ball of flame hit the ground, Tiffany had sense enough to pull me out of the way. We both hit the deck, trying to shield ourselves from the explosion as the fiery ball collided with the earth.

    Silence.

    I opened my eyes then looked at my sister lying on the grass next to me.

    "Tiff—Are you alright!?" I asked, worried.

    Tiffany got up sat up slowly, and I inwardly let out a sigh of relief. She wasn't hurt.

    "The fuck was that?" she asked, glancing at me before looking at the huge crater that appeared in the middle of the sidewalk.

    I shook my head. I had no idea what happened.

    Tiffany stood up and cautiously began the approach the crater full of white smoke, her low knee boots clacking against the pavement. I wanted to tell her to stay back, to tell her it was dangerous. But I knew Tiffany wouldn't listen and curiosity had gotten the best of me as well. She always had a habit of dragging me along with her.

    Our eyes widened as we stood on the edge of the hole in the ground. I recoiled backward in shock, while Tiffany stood still in amazement.

    Someone was in there!

    In the center of the crater was the naked body of a man, unconscious. A person with nine tails extruding from his lower back and fox-like ears on his head. His face was covered by his hair. Hair extravagantly long and thick that led all the way down his backside reaching his tails. He was bleeding profusely, but I couldn't tell from where.

    "...What the hell?" I whispered.

    "Yeah." Tiffany murmured in agreement.

    Whoever this guy was—was he a hallowed? He wasn't a normal human, that was for sure.

    "Ems!"

    Tiffany nudged my arm and pointed for me to look upward. I did as she directed, my eyes squinting at four balls of light heading our direction. The balls of light swiftly flew toward us as they grew in size.

    It was then when I could see them clearly that I realized they were also capes like the fox-man laying on the ground by our feet. Hallowed that had actively used their powers in public.

    The four glowing figures paused a few feet above us, floating in the air. They looked like angelic knights, two men, and two women. They each wore beautiful golden and silver armor. Three of them had pairs of metal protected golden wings and knight-like helmets. The one in front who I assumed was the leader had a pair of three wings and had two horns extending from her helmet on both sides. Her armor was completely golden. Futuristic visors had covered each of their faces.

    Both Tiffany and I looked at them in awe.

    The leader floated toward us. The visor around her face disappeared, her mask and helmet disintegrated into thin air—revealing inhuman golden eyes and long blonde hair.

    "Step away from the Valterian," the angel woman commanded.

    I heard her and I was sure Tiffany did as well, but we couldn't move. Our bodies were frozen with fear. I could feel the sweat roll down my neck as I faced the angel woman's stern, judging gaze of contempt.

    What in the world had we gotten ourselves into?

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; March 5th, 2018 at 11:20 PM.

  5. #5
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Dec 2014
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    167
    Hello and Goodbye

    The air was still tense, eerily still, after the angel woman gave her command. My mouth was dry. I still couldn't move. I couldn't process what was going on. Our lives had been fairly normal up till now. We had never directly come across hallowed before, even while living in Ravensworth, a city that had one of the highest cape populations in the states.

    Now, after somehow being able to avoid capes all that time, Tiffany and I found ourselves in the middle of an altercation between five of them.

    This is insane!

    Tiffany had gotten her bearings under control faster than I did.

    "Valterian?" she asked, facing the angel leader. "Isn't that like... Nexus?"

    Hearing her calm voice caused me to ease up a bit. I glanced at her. "Valterian?" I asked.

    "Yeah, you remember what we learned in history class? About the father of the Galaxia chick? He's the only hero that's not a hallowed, he came from a different planet or somethingI think it's called...Valteria. He's like an alien."

    Now that Tiffany mentioned it, I did recall Nexus being mentioned some point in Mr. Tate's class. It must have been during our review on cape history. He was a popular hero, leader of the famous Omniversals. It was common knowledge that Nexus wasn't from Earth but I wasn't sure if we studied his place of origin in class. Tiffany must have learned that research on her own. She was a cape geek, even more so than I was.

    The angel woman gave her a slight frown. "Although you are somewhat correct, Nexus and the other Valterians are not aliens in the way you think they are. Nexus isn't the first or only Valterian to be on this planet either."

    So... were the group of angels also Valterians like the man lying on the ground?

    "Now," the angel woman said, breaking off her tangent. "It's imperative that the two of you step away from that man. He's a dangerous criminal wanted for acts of aggression against Arcadia and the Twelve Celestial Kingdoms— "

    "Woah-whoa-whoa, What? Arcadia? The Twelve—muh-what?" Tiffany asked, voicing my questions for me. Confused as I was.

    The angel woman made a sound of annoyance, surprised someone had the audacity to cut her off. I would have been annoyed too, cut off by a little brat who wouldn't let me finish explaining something so important. "That's none of your concern children."

    She turned to face her Arcadian subordinates. "Caphriel, Tartys—set up the transport barrier. Aleph, prepare to assist with barrier maintenance and stabilization."

    The Arcadian warriors gave quick acknowledgment of their leader's command before they went to work.

    "Please stand back," Caphriel, the other female Arcadian said.

    Tiffany and I backed away as the three other Arcadians approached. Caphriel and Tartys stood a few feet from the Valterian. Their bodies started to glow with a golden energy.

    They erected a small transparent barrier around the body of the fallen Valterian while Aleph positioned himself closer to the glass bubble of energy. He touched the barrier with both arms extended. The barrier started to become less transparent; it was becoming solidified.

    "Starting stabilization process," Aleph said.

    Before he could finish whatever he was doing, the atmosphere changed. The fallen Valterian's eyes opened slightly. So he actually was alive. I almost doubted that, with the way he was bleeding and all.

    The angel woman's eyes widened, she noticed a little bit before I did. "Get back!" she yelled.

    The fox Valterian crouched on all fours and let out a feral roar, his tails stretching and wreathing outward. The barrier shattered like glass, instantly. The force of his roar created a wind-like pressurestrong enough to blow us all backward. My head was spinning, my eardrums were being ripped apart.

    My feet had left the ground. For a moment I was caught up in fear, wondering what happened. It was like we were caught in a freaking hurricane. I felt the blunt pain travel across my back as I hit the ground with a thud.

    I was going to be feeling that in the morning.

    I sat up, looking around for Tiffany. "Tiffany! Are you okay?"

    I turned around to find her stirring a few feet away from me on the flat part of the asphalt. The fox guy was able to throw us out of the crater by just yelling? I stood up slowly and ran to my sister, favoring my left leg.

    "...Mercy? What the hell is going on...?" she asked in a soft voice as I helped her up.

    "Apparently, we've just found ourselves in the middle of a cape fight," I said, glancing back at the Arcadian warriors readying their weapons at the fox Valterian.

    "No kidding," Tiffany said. She let out a whistle of admiration. "And that fox dude is packing."

    "Yeah—what...?" I asked, my question trailing off. Taking another look at the fox guy, I could feel my face start to heat up as I caught on to the double meaning of Tiffany's words.

    He was butt-naked and had no qualms about it, a cocky grin showing on his face. His wounds had stopped bleeding.

    My eyes traveled downward toward his lower extremities.

    He...was well endowed.

    Tiffany laughed as she saw my mouth hanging open.

    "He's so big and cuddly, with those huge tails of his," she said. "And gorgeous hair. A sexy body too. Just your type, right?"

    Words were caught in my thought. "T-Tiff! Are you serious?"

    Tiffany laughed again. "What? Am I lying?"

    "Really? At a time like this?"

    I shook my head trying to focus and pay attention, attempting not to stare at the Valterian's crotch. Yeah, he was pretty hot, but that was the last thing I cared about in this situation since both my sister and I could end up being killed!

    "Why the hell haven't we run away yet?" I asked Tiffany in a low voice. "We need to get out of here."

    Tiffany didn't react. I didn't know if it was because she was ignoring me or because she was too focused on naked-fox-guy swinging his business around.

    The Valterian turned to face the angel leader. His smirk widened as he scoffed.

    "You thought such a weak barrier could hold me, Shekhinah?"

    Aleph tightened the grip on his twin blades. "His wounds have healed?"

    Shekhinah held out her hand. Golden energy formed. She materialized an exotic looking lance. It was blood-red, with a small but lengthy blade at its tip. It was pretty as it was deadly.

    "Do not be overwhelmed by fear, Aleph," Shekhinah said. "He's still damaged internally from all that fighting, no matter how much he tries to hide it. We can stop him. Take positions!"

    Shekhinah took an attack stance. Her body in a form she must have perfected long ago. The other Arcadians followed suit. Caphriel, with a rapier in hand, stood by Shekhinah while Tartys and Aleph positioned themselves behind the Valterian.

    I swallowed, rooted to where I stood. Things were about to get real.

    "Hah—You've become quite ruthless Shekhinah, trying so hard to kill me. Did our break up scar you that badly? No?"

    He gestured with his hands. "Or perhaps you're desperate to prove that you haven't betrayed your king? Hmm? Ace messenger of the Twelve Celestial KingdomsLoyal warrior of Kairanna?”

    Well, that was a mouthful. The other Arcadians paused for a moment at his words. Their postures had changed slightly. It wasn't too pronounced, I barely had time to notice before they hid their concern.

    "The Valterian speaks lies," Shekhinah said. "Do not listen to such nonsense. He is trying to break us apart. Poison our minds with deceit and doubt."

    The fox man tilted his head. "Is that really the case?"

    "Yes!" Shekhinah hissed. "You are nothing but a liar, a manipulative scoundrel of the highest order—Kazuya, reprobate nine-tailed fox of the Fox clan! Even the Valterians saw fit to banish you!"

    Kazuya shook his head, amused. "I see. Let me correct the faulty information that leaves you so clearly confused. I was not banished from Valteria, I simply left after a misunderstanding with Decimatus."

    Shekhinah gritted her teeth. "Misunderstanding is putting it lightly."

    Kazuya started to glow, a golden aura surrounding his body.

    "Mmm," he mumbled. His tails started to twist in the air. "You're entitled to your opinion, my fair messenger. I must thank you for giving me enough time to replenish some of my vapor. It's always a pleasure to reminisce."

    "What? Stop him!" Shekhinah ordered as Kazuya's body started to shine a vibrant white, lighting up the night road even more.

    "Woah..." I muttered, looking at the glowing nine-tailed fox.

    "Yeah," Tiffany agreed.

    The Arcadians rushed to attack Kazuya but it was too late.

    Brightness filled my vision.

    Then all I could see was white.

    Pure white.

    My body had disappeared and I had found myself in a void of light. I felt like I was floating on thin air. An out of body experience. Like I was a ghost. Pretty freaky.

    Within a moment the sensation passed.

    Tiffany and I found ourselves lying on the cold grass in a tangled mess. Confused, we fought each other off for a couple of seconds - not realizing what just happened.

    "Hey! Calm down it's me!" Tiffany said after I gave her a good shove.

    "Yeah, I know," I replied with a smirk.

    "You little bitch," Tiffany said, enunciating each syllable slowly - grabbing hold of me like she thought I was irresistible. I pushed her off. We could play around later.

    "Where are we?" I asked, looking around.

    We stood the middle of a large field next to a walkway with park benches along the side. A bunch of trees were on both sides of the clearing. It was kind of hard to see since there was hardly any light but I could tell we were in a park of some sort.

    "Maybe we're in North Park?" Tiffany asked, glancing my way for confirmation.

    "....Probably? How did we get here?"

    "I don't know. What makes you think I know?"

    "I'm just asking, Tiff."

    "Well, I'm just not knowing the answer, Ems."

    I rolled my eyes. "Shut up."

    "That fox guy," Tiffany said, "He must have done something. He was shining so brightly."

    I nodded. "And then we ended up here."

    I could hear the sound rustling of grass behind us. Tiffany and I turned around at once. Kazuyathe fox guy from before was following us, some of his tails trailing on the ground.

    "My, my," he said as he approached us. "I must really be on my last legs if I couldn't concentrate well enough to bring only myself."

    Kazuya sighed. "Shekhinah, you really are quite tenacious."

    "W-what did you do to us?" I asked.

    Kazuya focused his attention on me, his feral eyes looking me up and down. A chill ran down my spine. I was shaking. This guy was dangerous.

    "Simple teleportation, my dear. I accidentally took you along for the ride. Nothing for you to worry your little cute head over."

    Teleportation?

    "Wow," Tiffany said after some silence. "So you're a cape. Why are those angel people after you? They messed you up pretty good."

    Kazuya frowned. Yikes. Tiffany should have known better than to offend the crazy fox guy. "Do not compare me to humans, brat. Those four little cubs couldn't harm me if their lives depended on it."

    Kazuya glanced upward toward the sky. "I had a small bout with the previous Valterian King and then ran into Corinath, that frustrating man."

    "Corinath?" I asked.

    "The one who leads Arcadia," he replied.

    If I didn't know any better, I'd say Kazuya was probably a very strong cape. I wasn't sure if I actually believed the whole Valterian-alien thing but after seeing Kazuya here? This whole situation? Nothing was too outlandish anymore.

    My mind was teeming with questions. Who were those guys? Who was Kazuya? Why haven't we heard anything about them before now? Why wouldn't Kazuya put on some damn pants?

    Before Tiffany and I could say anything else. Kazuya looked pointedly toward his left, off in the distance.

    "The Arcadians will be here soon," he said.

    "You mean those angel people from before?" Tiffany asked.

    Kazuya ignored her. "No matter how much I would like to pretend, I don't have enough strength to take them on right now. I pretty much used all of it getting us here."

    "Then, what are we going to do?" I asked, worried.

    Kazuya looked at us thoughtfully. "Well, nothing my dear. I moved locations to simply buy time after all."

    "Buy time? How's that going to work?"

    "Well you see," Kazuya said, "The Arcadians will come here and probably kill us all. Me and you by association."

    Kill us?

    "B-but—" I stuttered.

    "But we didn't do anything!" Tiffany exclaimed.

    "Ah, I know," Kazuya said. "It's truly unfortunate, but that's how things are when it comes to them. They are rigid and bound by rules. Anyone who goes against the Arcadian kingdoms is treated like a heretic to be purged."

    Kazuya had moved closer to us. I had a bad feeling.

    "They definitely wouldn't let you live after you heard all that you did tonight," Kazuya said. "And that's a real shame since you both have so much vapor for human beings. Enough spirit energy that I could use it to fight them off."

    Kazuya's eyes narrowed, his lips twisted into a wicked grin as he barred his teeth. "Perhaps I should do you girls a favor. Instead of having a wasted death, why don't I eat you alive?"

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; December 9th, 2017 at 12:39 AM.

  6. #6
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Nothing Else Matters But The Feeling

    “—Eat us alive?” I asked, coughing out my words, stomach twisting in fear.

    Kazuya paused, then he smiled. “Do you think I’m going to feast on you, tearing you apart limb from limb? As filling as you may be, I don’t think you’d taste any good. I’m not that barbaric.”

    Well. That was good news. I guess.

    Kazuya’s tails started to twitch and raise. “I’m only going to absorb the rest of your vapor so I can get away from those annoying pests.”

    I turned around fully to get a better look at him. “Vapor? You mentioned that before,” I said.

    I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but if he was taking something from us I doubted that it would be good.

    Kazuya sighed. “Really… I don’t like giving lengthy explanations to people who will die the next moment. But, I guess that would make it more amusing.”

    Tiffany’s hand tightened around mine. “Ems…”

    “Vapor is your spiritual energy, or rather your condensed spiritual matter. The very essence of your being,” Kazuya said. “Your life force.”

    Kazuya raised a glowing hand. His fingernails had transformed into long sharp claws. “I’m going to rip that essence out of you both.”

    “The hell you will!” Tiffany said, turning around and pulling me away from Kazuya.

    My sister and I turned away from Kazuya running away from him as fast as we could. He didn’t move. He said something a little bit louder so we could hear himbut I couldn’t make it out—I was too focused on running, the adrenaline finally kicking in. Must have been the fastest I’ve ever had run in my life.

    Kazuya didn’t seem worried about his prey escaping, however.

    “Really now? A game of tag?”

    In a flash his tails shot forward, grabbing us. Tiffany and I cried out helplessly as the strong furry appendages wrapped around our bodies, hoisting us up in the air. Kazuya chuckled at our pitiful effort of running away, before pulling us toward him with his tails.

    Before Kazuya could finish, a golden light had appeared from the horizon—heading straight for him. Kazuya noticed immediately, his tails dropped us as he already started to dodge the golden comet before it impacted the ground where he stood.

    I hit the grass with a thud, crying out in pain as I landed on my shoulder. Tiffany laid on the ground stunned for a minute before getting up and coming to my aid. It wasn’t a big fall. Kazuya didn’t lift us high enough to break our necks, but it still hurt. I was a delicate girl, you know.

    Tiffany helped me up, holding my shoulder so I could balance myself. We looked at the new crater that had appeared where Kazuya was just standing moments ago. Shekhinah was there now, lance at the ready.

    Kazuya didn’t seem worried at all. “You’re becoming such a pest, Shekah. Did you ditch your teammates?”

    Shekhinah gritted her teeth, looking angrier than ever. “Don’t call me that name,” she said, her voice emphasizing every syllable. “You have no right!”

    “Ah, you wound me. Still, you think you fight me alone? Do you not trust your subordinates as much as you try to make yourself believe?”

    Shekhinah huffed. “My faith in them is unshakeable, but I work best alone. You won’t escape this time Kazuya.”

    Kazuya only laughed in response.

    His laugh was briefly cut off as a blood-red spear jutted toward his head. He dodged it easily with a speed my eyes could barely register. Shekhinah attacked again with another spear jab, Kazuya parried the blow with a glowing tail before it could strike his side.

    Shekhinah pushed off the ground, jumping backward and twisting the lance around her body, acrobatically. She was like a freaking ninja! Shekhinah resumed her attack stance.

    Kazuya smirked at her, leaning lazily on one leg. Shekhinah frowned, rushing Kazuya again. Kazuya and Shekhinah moved through the clearing in a flash. Strike after strike, blow after blow. Shekhinah kept on attacking with her spear, aiming low to take out Kazuya’s legs, before moving up to his midsection. Kazuya kept on parrying her strikes with his tails infused with golden energy.

    Shekhinah kept up the pressure, pushing Kazuya back with heavy strikes in close quarters before jumping backward every few seconds to make a little distance. She was agile enough to avoid being grabbed by his tails. She had enough stamina to keep going and wear Kazuya down.

    No doubt Kazuya knew this as well. Shekhinah hadn’t even scratched him yet, but he was slowly being pushed backward by her barrage of strokes. Like a hundred per second. Couldn’t really tell, it was like they were moving at the speed of sound. One moment they were visible and the next they’d disappear.

    But even I could tell Kazuya was getting slower. His tails started to miss simple counters and he had to resort to dodging Shekhinah’s attacks. Shekhinah must have realized this too, going into overdrive with faster strikes.

    Surprised by the Shekhinah’s sudden increase in power, Kazuya tripped while attempting to avoid being gutted. Shekhinah immediately took advantage of that new given opportunity. The atmosphere around the area started to change. The air became thick, it felt hard to breath. A green aura of energy surrounded the spear and she held it at about the level of Kazuya’s heart.

    For the first time, Kazuya eyes showed true fear.

    She’s going to kill him.

    Kazuya moved, lifting his body upward as soon as Shekhinah pushed the spear down. The blade from Shekhinah’s lance ended up piercing straight through Kazuya’s shoulder as he forced himself upon it. He had stopped Shekhinah from activating whatever she was trying to do with his body.

    Kazuya let out a loud cough. “Ah. that really hurts, Shekah.”

    Shekhinah narrowed her eyes, fully aware that her spear was still embedded under Kazuya’s collarbone. They disengaged at once, Shekhinah tore the blade away from Kazuya’s body. Blood spewed everywhere.

    Shekhinah and Kazuya swiftly put some distance between each other. Shekhinah lifted her lance, ready to go another bout. Kazuya panted as blood poured from his new wound. He held the arm of the wounded shoulder with his other hand.

    “You’re going to have to do better than that if you want to kill me, Shekhinah.”

    Shekhinah gave him a look almost akin to pity. Three other balls of light landed on park grass from the air above. Shekhinah’s subordinates, Caphriel and Aleph surrounded the wounded Valterian while Tartys checked up on Shekhinah. The two Arcadians talked amongst themselves for a moment, presumably going over how they were going to play the following scenario. Kazuya eyes were focused on Shekhinah but he would probably be ready for an attack by Caphriel and Aleph at a moments notice.

    After their short talk, Shekhinah and Tartys joined the other two Arcadians in surrounding Kazuya—effectively blocking any way he could escape. Kazuya turned his head to look at us for a moment before returning his attention to the four opponents around him. Caphriel and Tartys moved weapons in hand performing a pincer attack.

    Shekhinah hung back while charging up her spear with that green venomous looking energy. She must’ve been aiming to finish the job after the two other Arcadians attacked. Even if Kazuya were to dodge the blades from Caphriel and Tartys, there was probably no way he’d notice her coming. Aleph stood even further back than Shekhinah, probably for support.

    Instead of trying to evade or fight them off individually, Kazuya created a wall with his tails, causing the two Arcadians to stop running in mid-stride. Kazuya smirked and took advantage of the opening. To head straight for us.

    “Stop!” Shekhinah ordered.

    Caphriel and Tartys stopped pursuing Kazuya at once. They turned back to give Shekhinah questioning looks.

    Kazuya cackled with laughter, while still running toward us. “What’s wrong Shekhinah? The life of humans normally wouldn’t stop you from attacking. Or are you worried about me consuming their life force before you’re able to land your final blow?”

    Shekhinah didn’t respond, giving us an odd look. Kazuya had stopped running as well, even though he was much closer to us than before.

    “Unfortunately,” Kazuya said with narrowed eyes, now facing us, “I’ve realized something about you two brats. I can’t kill you.”

    I blinked. Tiffany looked equally shocked. Did he mean he literally couldn’t kill us? Or was there another reason?

    “I guess that’s good news,” Tiffany muttered.

    Kazuya made a sound of annoyance. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a position where I might actually die. So unbecoming.”

    Kazuya closed his eyes and then reopened them. I shuddered. His eyes had changed. No longer were his eyes a vibrant gold but now an alluring dark purple and blue. It was as if they were redesigned—the irises of his eyes looking like purple flowers, a kaleidoscope full of petals.

    Kazuya faced Shekhinah and her warriors, giving her a vulpine grin.

    Shekhinah didn’t seem impressed. “Mystic Eyes of Knowledge? Using that in the state you’re in now will only make your death come more quickly.”

    Kazuya, still smiling barred his teeth. “Taking you all to hell with me makes it worth it.”

    A golden ball of energy formed in Kazuya’s hand. The ball lengthened itself turning into a long weapon. Slowly the pole of energy molded itself—more accurately, Kazuya molded it without even touching it. I watched in amazement as Kazuya finished creating a perfect replica of Shekhinah’s spear. He pulled it out of thin air like it was created from scratch. A green aura of energy engulfed his spear, it was the same technique Shekhinah used.

    “Alright children,” Kazuya said. “It’s time for you to die.”

    Shekhinah frowned grimly and took her stance, her blade glowing with the same aura. The rest of her Arcadian teammates did the same. They charged. Kazuya opted to fight off his opponents with his recreated spear, using the same style Shekhinah was using. He would still use his energy covered tails to block blind spot attacks.

    But something was off. I could feel it. Whatever energy Kazuya was talking about earlier, he was losing it. Getting weaker.

    Kazuya backed off from the four Arcadians and fell to one knee, tired.

    I flinched. My head started to hurt.

    Images appeared in my mind. Those visions. About the castle… the land of three suns. My mind shifted. I was in a land of angels. A place with golden cities and crystal clear waters… I remember being carried, looking up at faces of two angelic beings as my sister and I were given to a man with long white hair, fox ears, and nine tails.

    “They’re going to kill him,” I said suddenly, without thinking.

    Tiffany glanced at me. “You say that like it’s a bad thing. He was going to eat us.”

    “I don’t think so,” I said while rubbing my head, the broken visions still clouding my mind. “It doesn’t feel right.”

    I start to move forward. A hand stopped me.

    “Mercy,” Tiffany said. “What the hell are you thinking?”

    I remained silent.

    Ems!"

    I shrugged her hand off my arm and ran toward Kazuya, Tiffany followed yelling and cursing at me. Reaching Kazuya he turned his face to look at me like I was an idiot. “Fool! Get out of the way!”

    “You know something about us, don’t you?” I asked, focusing completely on his kaleidoscopic eyes, they really were alluring. “I can feel it.”

    “Mercy!”

    Tiffany screamed my name as Tartys appeared from the air, swinging his twin blades downward to kill Kazuya with his finishing blow. Kazuya’s eyes widened, caught by surprise. He couldn’t move in time. Instinctively, I tossed myself in front of him as a shield.

    As the blades tore through my chest—feeling searing pain, I cried out wordlessly as my world went white.

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; August 10th, 2018 at 03:10 AM.

  7. #7
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    A Peaceful Dream

    I felt warm. Warmth wrapped around my body and covered me like a cocoon. I wasn’t totally aware of my body or my surroundings, but I was conscious enough to know that I existed, that I had form.

    I could feel the heat of bright sunlight on my face. I opened my eyes slowly, revealing a clear blue sky. My back felt wet, my body felt like it was floating.

    Wait.

    What?

    I found myself floating naked in the middle of a river that was crystal clear. I righted myself up, frantically trying not to drown, and make my way over to the river bank close by. Crawling out of the water and off the bank, I laid down on the grass—breathing hard.

    I sat up, looking at the water I was floating in. It was still and serene. I pause for a moment and look at the various trees and vibrant undergrowth around me in the endless garden. I looked down at my body; a slight breeze nearly caused me to jump out of my skin. I needed some clothes.

    Where was I?

    I heard the sound of rustling bushes. Something transparent—a freaking ghost!—popped out to greet me. I tried to grab something to cover my naked self but realizing I had nothing good to use, I had to settle on an arm and a hand.

    The hell?

    She looked like an alien—or at least I thought it was a she. The being had white glowing eyes and a body like a bombshell, showing visible misty swirls constantly moving on her skin like a bunch of typhoons. Or was it beneath her skin? She was transparent after all. Ridiculously long and ghostly deer antlers were connected to her head.

    “Who are you?” I whispered. “What the hell are you?"

    The spirit woman made a sound akin to a giggle.

    “I am Nature,” she said. “The Elder God responsible for creating the Seven Realms.”

    What. I mean what?

    I couldn’t really tell but judging by her slight smile, she seemed amused. “Do not worry. I will explain. I am an Elder God. One who maintains and watches over the realms with the other two Elders, Death and Karma.”

    My mind was blank. Gods? Elder Gods? Everything she had just said turned what I had learned about the afterlife and religion on its head.

    The fuck?

    My mouth ran dry. “So you’re a god then? Am I dead?”

    Nature shook her head. “You are still of the living, my child. I am not a god in the way you think I am. Come.”

    Nature beckoned me with her hand To follow her through the tree covered fields.

    “You’re not?” I asked, walking quickly—almost jogging to catch up with her.

    “I’m the creator of the Seven Realms along with Karma and Death, but we are not The Most High. That would be a more accurate term for the one you and most humans on Earth believe to be God.”

    I frowned in thought. “So you guys are like… lower gods then.”

    Nature chuckled.”In a way. We all come from The Most High, The All-One in the end.”

    As we walked, I observed the environment in front of us, taking the time to admire the trees rustling in the wind and breath in the crisp air. I could feel the soft grass between my toes as I looked at the clear river next to us.

    “So…” I said. “If I’m not dead, why are you here? Heck, why am I here? Whatever here is.”

    Nature didn’t respond right away, silently guiding me through the fields. She found a nice spot to sit, under a tree next to the river bank—providing shade from the sunlight. Nature sat down and I followed suit, sitting cross-legged. I stared at Nature in silence. She looked at me quietly, unoffended as my eyes trace over the stormy swirls I saw in her body. Nature was so… fascinating.

    Lost in captivation, I sat in peace for a while; Nature didn’t disturb me. Soon my attention was drawn elsewhere. Ahead of us—where there was no undergrowth in the way, I could see the fields in the distance being cut off by a wall of giant, no—freaking hugeburning swords. Fucking burning swords!

    “This is the Realm of Conception,” Nature said. “The first one we created. It was a test run of sorts. Here we hold the Tree of Life. Those blades you see prevent beings from acquiring what lies beyond. “

    My brow furrowed. “And what lies beyond?”

    Nature smiled. “My, my, such an inquisitive child. Beyond the blades of fire exists the source and paths to other dimensions. The omniverse if you will.”

    Well, that sounded like a pretty big deal.

    Nature nodded her head like she had read my thoughts.”It is. Alas, discussing the creation of the Seven Realms is not why I called you here. Like I said before, you’re not dead: I only wanted to talk to you.”

    Some god who created the freaking universe wanted to talk to little ole me?

    “Of course,” Nature said. “I wanted to personally speak to you because of the events that may happen in your future.”

    Suddenly, I felt an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I hoped this wasn’t the part where the mysterious god gives the main character a grand prophecy—in which I had to save the world or something. That wouldn’t be good.

    “What do you mean?” I asked, slowly.

    “Soon you will come into remembrance of who you really are.”

    “Is that supposed to be deep or something?”I asked. “Or easy to understand? Because that’s pretty vague.”

    Nature actually laughed. “You and your sister were created in The Most High’s and our image. The half of a creator and a messenger.”

    She knew about Tiffany? Of course, she did, she made everything. But I still didn’t understand what she was on about.

    “That’s still vague,” I said.

    Nature smiled mischievously. “Is it?”

    The edges of my lips lifted upward slightly. It looked as if that would be all the information I would get out of her on that. I was kind of annoyed she wouldn’t give a straight answer, but I couldn’t stay that way for long. Her peaceful, joyful demeanor was infectious.

    “I am sure Kazuya will explain everything to you in more detail. In due time.”

    Kazuya? The fox guy?

    Nature nodded. “Now that he has realized who the both of you are, he will probably have a vested interest in protecting you and your sister. But I want to talk to you about Tiffany.”

    My posture straightened as my face became serious. She had my full attention.

    “I ask a favor of you,” she said. “As I see it, the future may become a struggle for you both. You may have to face the darkest parts of yourself, great trials and tribulations. Even death. But you will come across old allies. Ready and waiting to aid you.”

    I inhaled deeply and then let go. Trying to take everything Nature had dropped on me.

    “I need you to protect your sister and keep her on the right path no matter what happens because you both will need each other more than ever before.”

    I snorted. ”Of course. I promise.” She didn’t even need to ask.

    Nature gave me a warm smile.

    The world started to fade. I was pulled back through a black void, looking at Nature still sitting on the grassy fields, her face still smiling. It was like I was looking at a television screen from afar. Soon the image of the endless garden disappeared only leaving pure black.

    I felt myself floating through the darkness. The void of space.

    Then—

    oOo

    I opened my eyes. Tiffany and the injured Kazuya were hovering over me as I was lying on the grass. I sat up with a start, looking around. We were next to a river, close to a bridge a few feet away from the sidewalk that went under it. It was still night.

    Was all that a dream? I mused.

    “Ems! You’re up!” Tiffany exclaimed, hectically grabbing a hold of me “Are you alright?”

    “Tiff…” I muttered. I was still disoriented from that dream. Kazuya was inspecting his gaze, looking at my body. I looked at Kazuya’s injuries—he still didn’t have any damn clothes on! I could feel the blood rushing to my face as my eyes wandered downward; I hurriedly shifted my gaze upwards, focusing on his muscled chest so as not to stare at his dick. Christ. I wasn’t a prude but that didn’t mean I wanted all that waving around in my face.

    I shook my head and then looked down at my own body. The shirt I was wearing was torn to pieces, my bra the only thing shielding my upper body from the elements. Two long lines that looked like scabs traveled from my shoulders to the abdomen, crisscrossing at the middle of my chest forming an ‘x.’

    That was surprising. I was pretty sure that Tartys guy had nearly sliced me in half. My wounds didn’t feel deep. Heck, I didn’t feel them at all.

    “Ems, are you alright?” Tiffany repeats, worried as she hugged me tightly. This girl was going to kill me. “How could you be so stupid?”

    I gave her a soft smile. “What happened?”

    “You were an idiot,” Kazuya growled. “That’s what happened. You stepped in the way of that Arcadian’s attack.”

    “Yeah. To save your ass,” Tiffany snarked.

    “I don’t need saving, especially from little girls.”

    Tiffany rolled her eyes. "Says the guy bleeding all over the place after nearly getting his head put on a pike by that ninja angel woman. Great. Not only are you a useless cannibal who walks around butt-ass-naked like a degenerate, but you smell like a wet dog, and worst of all you’re sexist!”

    It was Kazuya’s turn to roll his eyes. "Really child?”

    “If you’re gonna be a fucking douche, I’ll be one right back. “

    Kazuya smirked. “How uncouth.” He muttered something else about acting like humans before looking back at me.

    “That guy cleaved through me with his sword, right?” I asked. “Why wasn’t I cut to ribbons?”

    “You should have been,” Kazuya said. “If I didn’t have enough energy to stabilize you, you would’ve bled out. Nine times out of ten you would have been killed instantly by that kind of attack. Fortunately for you, you’re more durable than most.”

    “You healed me?”

    Kazuya nodded, briefly. “Something like that. I used magic.”

    Tiffany scoffed.

    Kazuya ignored her but continued his explanation since I looked skeptical. "Do you remember what I told you of vapor? I don’t have much left so I did the next best thing. I manipulated the natural vapor of the environment. Unfortunately, I’m too tired to properly control it. Magic is dangerous to use when low on spiritual energy even if you’re controlling an external source. An inexperienced caster can kill themselves. I was barely able to revive you.”

    “Hmm…” I mumbled looking down at where the scars left by Tartys’ twin blades.

    “You heal rapidly,” Kazuya says. “In a few days, those will be nothing but light blemishes on your skin.”

    “That’s not what I was worried about,” I said. “I’m trying to figure out what excuse we’ll give to Mom when she sees us come in the house with torn up clothes.”

    Kazuya snorted.

    “That’s the last thing you should be worried about,” Tiffany said, still holding me firmly.

    “How did we get here anyway, where are those… Arcadians?”

    Tiffany titled her head toward Kazuya. “Fox-boy saved us. He threw his spear down and made it explode. Like a flashbang.”

    “A diversion, yes,” Kazuya agreed. “Then I carried the both of you as far I could.”

    “Won’t they come after us?”

    “Yes,” Kazuya said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I won’t be able to hold them off this time. A problem that could have been avoided if someone didn’t jump in front of an attacking Arcadian like an imbecile.”

    “It was to save your life!” Tiffany said.

    I grabbed her shoulder, holding her back before she could launch herself at the Valterian. “Stop! We’re in too much shit to fight among ourselves. Kazuya, you’re right I was stupid, but I didn’t just run in there on a whim. Well, I kinda did. But still. I have a strange feeling about you. You know us. Right? Nature told me about you.”

    I felt apprehensive adding on the last few words about Nature. What if she wasn’t real, only part of a dream world? Kazuya would think I’d lost it.

    “Nature? What do you mean Ems?”

    Kazuya gaze changed, his golden eyes became sharp pupils like a fox. He stared at me solemnly.

    “She mentioned me, hmm? Interesting,” Kazuya turned his back toward us. He looked up at the dark sky. “We need to move. The Arcadians will probably track us to this place soon.”

    “Why?” Tiffany asked. “They’re only after you. Why don’t you go and leave us here?”

    Kazuya shook his head chuckling. “I already told you. They would assume you’re accomplices based on how much I’ve protected you and the fact that your sister attempted to stop one of them. Besides, I know they wouldn’t leave you alone anyway.”

    He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “It seems we still have means of an escape. They haven’t noticed your vapor signatures, and my vapor is at an all time low. I don’t have to put in that much work to hide it from their awareness.”

    “Then it’s settled,” I said, standing up. “Kazuya, will you come home with us?”

    Tiffany looked like she swallowed a frog. “Are you crazy, Mercy?”

    I had to stifle a laugh as I looked at her expression, but managed to put on a stern face. "He knows something about us. More than we do, and I want answers. Think about it. We could be hallowed!”

    Tiffany shook her head. “You think by taking him home and asking nicely he’ll answer for free?”

    “Ladies,” Kazuya said, cutting in. “As much as I find this conversation amusing, I must remind you that time is of the essence.”

    Kazuya changed, his body getting smaller. He morphed. His skin rapidly grew fur as his hands turned into paws. Within seconds, the tall man before us had transformed into a small fox, with abnormally fluffy tails. He was still wounded, but there wasn’t as much blood coming from his body as before.

    He turned to face us. “I take this form when I am at my limit and need to recover out of sight. The Arcadians will not notice me like this.

    Kazuya spoke, not through his snout of the fox, but through our minds.

    “You’ve gotta be shitting me,” Tiffany muttered.

    I huffed. “This actually works better for us. We don’t have to sneak a half-dead naked guy into our basement.”

    Tiffany shook her head with a smirk. “This is freaking crazy.”

    “I know.”

    I grabbed Kazuya from off the ground and carried him, ignoring his complaints. Tiffany and I walked to the main road away from the river bridge, noticing we were only a few blocks away from our suburban complex. Only a half an hour until I could relax in a nice warm bed.

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; August 10th, 2018 at 03:34 AM.

  8. #8
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Killin' It

    "I can't believe I agreed with you to take him back to the house," Tiffany said as I carried the little fox—Kazuya in my arms. We moved quickly and quietly, continuing to make our way through the silent street of Easton Avenue, hoping to make it home within the next few blocks.

    "We've already decided on this," I said, referring to her last statement. "So stop complaining and deal with it."

    Tiffany scrunched her face, giving me an exaggerated look of faux-irritation. "My god, how's it come to this? My naive little sister has become a slut willing to bring strange old men home!"

    "Oh, shut up," I said while rolling my eyes in annoyance. "And what do you mean little? We're the same age."

    "I came out like a second earlier which makes me the older sister, Duh. It's simple logic. You should know this stuff, Ems."

    Kazuya turned around in my arms, fixing his glaring slit pupils on Tiffany. "Would you children stop with the bickering, you’re giving me a headache."

    I was startled a bit as Kazuya's voice echoed through the top of my skull. His telepathy would take some getting used to. Tiffany, on the other hand, looked pleased that we were annoying the fox Valterian.

    "Good," she balked at him scornfully. "Now you know how we feel after getting dragged into your mess."

    I smiled despite myself, rubbing Kazuya behind the ears in an attempt to soothe him. Tiffany had a habit of getting under the skin of people, but she only teased people she liked. Kazuya growled at me a bit as my fingers traveled through his fur, causing me to stop with a flinch.

    Tiffany started to complain again, reprimanding Kazuya for trying to bite me until I could get her to calm down. Both Kazuya and Tiffany eyed me carefully as I tried to sneak my hand around Kazuya's neck, striving to pet the fur around his ears.

    Tiffany warned me but Kazuya didn't protest, instead, he closed his eyes—seemingly ignoring us. As we continued to walk through the quiet streets, I observed the environment around us. Different vehicles were parked near the side walked we traversed, all of them empty. We passed by various shops and storefronts at a hasty pace. Most were closed. It was pretty late.

    Even with Kazuya by our side, I didn't feel comfortable walking through the city at night. It was just me and Tiffany—the two of us unarmed girls with a weakened cape. Luckily, we were in the safer parts of Ravensworth—the upper residential area, usually devoid of the distinct criminal activity and cape action that plagued the lower part of the city. Even though the city seemed peaceful and ran smoothly during the day, the hallowed gangs that ran Ravensworth's underworld would rise to the surface at night. Particularity around the lower end of the city—the shopping district, downtown, and the waterfront as well.

    I was grateful we didn't have to deal with that on the way back, but something—a slight feeling of fear was worming its way through my mind. After everything that happened earlier, was the craziness of this night over? I huffed. Only a few more blocks before we were home.

    "I wonder what our parents would say if they found out what happened to us tonight," I said.

    "They'd be horrified," Tiffany replied. "Probably start screaming at us for going to the party in the first place. We'd be grounded for months."

    I shuddered at the thought of Dad's angry face and my Mother's disappointment. "That would be bad."

    "You're worried for no reason," Tiffany said in an effort to comfort me. "We don't have to tell them. Check your phone. They haven't called or texted, right? They haven't called mine."

    Taking a hand off of Kazuya, I felt around my jeans pocket for my cell phone. I could feel cold jagged edges of metal against my fingertips. After scrounging around, I realized objects in question were my house keys after hearing them jingle. My phone was nowhere to be found.

    "Crap," I blurted out. "Don't have it. I must have left it at Timothy's place,"

    "Seriously?" my sister asked. "I don't wanna go back to that asshole's house again."

    I sighed, thinking about my ex-boyfriend. Remembering how he tried to take advantage of me earlier. "Me neither."

    "I can get Terra or someone else to go by and pick it up tomorrow."

    I tilted my head pensively in thought. "Tim might bring it to school."

    Tiffany glanced at me carefully. "You think he's gonna bribe you with it or something? Don't worry, Terra and I will be there with you if that's the case. He wouldn't be stupid enough to try anything."

    I shook my head. "Timothy isn't like that. The both of us made bad choices tonight."

    Tiffany mouth opened in surprise, she tilted her head—looking at me like I said something crazy. "Mercy. Are you serious?" She touched my shoulder firmly. "He tried to have sex with you, without your consent. He was fully aware of what he was doing. I don't buy that he was buzzed bullshit either."

    Kazuya opened an eyelid and looked at us in annoyance. "Well, it is my opinion that whatever you two are babbling about can wait until we get to a safe haven."

    Tiffany scowled at him. "Nobody asked you, fox-boy."

    "Be quiet. I need to rest so I can regain my strength. It wouldn't do for me to be in this weakened state if the Arcadians manage to find us, now would it?"

    I looked down at the bundle of fur in my arms. "You mentioned something about getting in a fight with the leader of Arcadia before. What exactly happened? That woman said you were wanted for acts of aggression or something."

    Kazuya's irritated sniff vibrated through our heads. "I don't think that's any of your business, my dear."

    "Uh—yeah, I think it is. Considering how you landed right in front of us, dragged us into a dangerous situation, and threatened to kill us. Plus the fact that we're taking you home?"

    Kazuya snorted. Tiffany grabbed one of his tails and tugged hard, but not enough to hurt. "Ems is right. You owe us, answer up."

    Kazuya growled at her. "Insolent girl! Have you no fear? Remove your hand," Kazuya spat in disgust. "That is your problem. Humans this era have no respect."

    I took hold of Tiffany's hand unclasping her grip. She removed her hand without any complaint. No need to further antagonize the dangerous fox I carried in my arms.

    "Look, Mr. Kazuya, I understand if you don't want to tell us everything," I said. "But I think we at least deserve to know that much. I had visions with you in them. Before I tried to help you. I can't shake the feeling that you know something about us."

    Kazuya looked at me quietly for a moment before he sighed. "Just call me by my name, normally," he said. "I can tell you more about it later, but the Arcadians have always had a complicated relationship with Valterians, especially us of the Fox clan."

    "What do you mean?"

    "They were never big on letting Valterians travel the worlds of lesser third-dimensional beings unmolested."

    "Third-dimensional—what?" Tiffany asked.

    Lesser beings?

    I frowned slightly looking at Kazuya. "When you say lesser beings are you talking about humans?"

    Kazuya nodded. "That and more," he opened his eyelid again to look at our surprised faces."Please. Don't tell me you believe your the only sapient life in this universe? Why are you so surprised after what you witnessed tonight? Even now gods walk your planet and you don't even know it."

    "Gods?" I whispered.

    "Of course. Nexus, the Type-Eater and more."

    Tiffany looked at him, shocked. "Wait, Type-Eater? You mean PTE? That thing is a Valterian?"

    I paused for a moment, trying to think what my sister was talking about. My eyes widened slightly as I remembered who PTE was. A huge crystallized metallic creature that looked similar to a gigantic jellyfish, like an alluring eldritch abomination. It was nicknamed 'The Jellyfish" by most people until the Special International Guarding Military Agency or SIGMA and the American government had renamed it to Primordial Type-Eater years later. It first appeared from space during the sixties and after a few resolving a few misunderstandings with Earth's governments, it began traveling the world non-stop, randomly helping people during times of need or other calamities. Type-Eater was considered the first hero of the modern era.

    Kazuya confirmed that PTE was a Valterian, from the same place as Nexus and himself. He claimed PTE was one of the first Valterians created in fact. Interestingly enough, I noticed that all the 'gods' in question all looked very different from one another. Nexus looked like a normal human, Kazuya had fox ears and nine tails, and PTE was something indescribable altogether. Perhaps the word Valterian was a classification of sorts, like a genus, that of multiple species.

    "I still have so many questions," I muttered. "Are the Valterians like a broad group of races under the same umbrella? You seem so different from one another, and when you called us third-dimensional beings... are you saying that you're from a higher one?"

    Kazuya harrumphed. "I told you, you would have your answers soon didn't I?" He sighed in annoyance. "Great Elders, these children will be the end of me."

    "I was—"

    "Yes, curious child," Kazuya said cutting me off. "You are correct to a point. Valterians are distinct as a group, however, even though we may have 'breeds' we are not divided the same way humans or other species on this planet are. When everything began, the start of our race, we were spiritually created from the Elder Gods, unlike the Irregulars who were born from them biologically. As for your second question, I'm sure Nature spoke of the Seven Realms did she not?"

    I nodded. "She mentioned something about it. She told me we were in the Realm of Contraception when we talked."

    "The first realm," Kazuya acquiesced. "Here, the realm which you exist in now is the seventh, the Realm of Solids. It is full of first, second, and third-dimensional beings such as yourselves. You have a spirit but you need a physical body to exist and interact in this realm. Fourth-dimensional beings such as Valterians or Arcadians requires no such thing."

    "You guys aren't physical?" Tiffany asked.

    "Not in the way you may think. The more we solidify ourselves, the greater impact we can have on the physical world. Unfortunately, that can make it harder to control our abilities."

    "So, what realm do you Valterians come from then?" I asked.

    "The fourth. The Realm of Heavens, where the gods exist," Kazuya said. "Where the great land of Valteria exists."

    I hummed. "I assume those Arcadians are from there too? Arcadia?"

    "Arcadia exists in the Realm of Heavens, yes. Separate of Valteria, as well as others."

    Tiffany whistled in appreciation. "Seems like the afterlife is full of grandeur."

    Kazuya snorted at her proclamation. I absentmindedly smoothed his fur-coat, softly kneading it through my fingers. "It seems like Arcadians don't really like Valterians that much. Considering what that woman said before."

    Kazuya chuckled, amused. "You'll never be able to agree with Arcadians on anything. They envy us for being the first race created by the Elders since they will be forever second. The Arcadians feel that they are superior to us; They look down on us for mating with lower beings, feeling we should be punished by the Elder Gods."

    "Lower beings?"

    "Yes," Kazuya said in a charming voice, entertained by the fact that I found being called a lower being insulting. "Even the humans of this world. You didn't think the hallowed gene came out of nowhere did you?"

    My mouth dropped. "But we were told—"

    "That it was due to evolution?" Kazuya let out a humorless laugh. "Humans weren't originally designed to have powers. That is only possible because some of your race has Valterian ancestors."

    Designed?

    I glanced at Tiffany her eyes meeting mine, our gazes solemn. Could it be possible?

    "Do we have Valterian ancestors?" I asked him.

    Kazuya laughed again, refusing to answer.

    "Drop him," Tiffany demanded, tapping my shoulder. "If he won't answer he can walk rest of the way."

    I shook my head. "We can probably get him to tell us, eventually."

    "You'd have to make it worth my while," Kazuya said.

    Only a few more blocks from home, we cut through a neighborhood park. But, as soon as we stepped onto the thin grass of the park fields, Kazuya surprised me—jumping out of my arms landing on the ground with his four paws.

    "What's wrong?" I asked.

    Soon after, for golden lights appeared from the shadows. The Arcadian warriors that were chasing us before revealed themselves. Aleph, Caphriel, the one who nearly killed me, Tartys, and leader of the group, Shekhinah. They walked toward us, majestically with weapons in hand—their golden armor mixed with silver shining radiantly in the night.

    Kazuya instantly transformed to his humanoid form, growing in size as most of his fur coat shed to reveal human-like skin. He was still unclothed, but Tiffany and I really didn't care at the moment. I could feel the fear erupt deep inside, twisting my stomach in knots. We had narrowly escaped the Arcadians before when Kazuya was still able to fight. Now, with Kazuya even weaker, we had no chance.

    Shekhinah stepped forward; She flashed her pairs of wings and pointed her crimson lance at Kazuya. "You didn't think you could escape, did you? I'd recognize your fox form anywhere."

    Kazuya sighed. "Of course you would, Shekah. I must say, you've really become an annoyance. You did never know how to give a man space."

    Shekhinah growled, her visor reforming under her helmet hiding her golden eyes from view. "Enough of your nonsensical stalling. You fall here!"

    The Arcadian knights surrounded us as Kazuya moved ahead a few feet. Shekhinah approached Kazuya from the front, slowly walking toward him with her deadly lance in hand.

    Kazuya gave her a confident smile. "You know me well Shekhinah, but there are things I haven't even told you about."

    Shekhinah looked a little discontented by Kazuya's claim but she continued to move forward, waiting for Kazuya to make a move. Kazuya turned his face a little to get a better look at us.

    "You two should stand back," he said. "If there is an opening, run, don't look back."

    "Will you be alright?" I asked, fearing the worst.

    "That's not important. I will hold them off long enough for you to escape."

    Shekhinah huffed. "Still giving out empty promises, Kazuya?" she mocked. "You were hit by my lance. Your body is probably feeling the effects it's poison now. You won't be able to do anything."

    What? I looked at Kazuya, aghast. Was he poisoned this entire time?

    "You know," Kazuya said, "I was actually surprised how you found us at first. I kept my vapor signature low enough to be undetectable. There was no reason for you lot to be here. Then I remembered," Kazuya smirked while looked at Shekhinah, "How you came into contact with these girls before."

    Kazuya motioned a hand toward Tiffany and I. For a moment, it seemed as if the other Arcadians hesitated like they were demanding for Shekhinah to defend herself.

    "I don't know what you're talking about," she said.

    "You never do. Sadly, you're a woman that does not understand subtlety. It never ceases to amaze me."

    "Attack!" Shekhinah yelled angrily, her warriors charging toward Kazuya at her command.

    Tiffany clutched my arm, pulling me further away from Kazuya. "Ems, we need to run now."

    "But, Kazuya!" I complained.

    "All we can do here is get killed!"

    "Your sister is right, Mercy," Kazuya said getting on all fours, his tails whipping through the air. "Step back if you don't want to die."

    "Still bluffing?" Aleph yelled running up to Kazuya swiftly with his blades in hand.

    Kazuya chuckled before breaking out into a maniacal laugh. "You left me too much time to recover," Kazuya started to glow with with with golden aura as an elegant fox tattoo with nine-tails spreading from the center became visible on his back glowing a bright orange. "I didn't want to use this man's power; I can barely control it. But I have no choice! Let's die together shall we?" he exclaimed.

    Kazuya roared toward the sky as his body had increased in size. Fur grew from his skin rapidly. Within moments he changed into a giant fox, as big as most of the houses in the area. Aleph faltered as he looked up at the growling monster, frozen with fear. Kazuya quickly swiped him with a huge paw. Aleph attempted to dodge but it was too late, he was bisected in two as Kazuya's claws tore through his abdomen. Blood and guts, Aleph's intestines, poured out the bottom of his torso as he fell, his legs thrown across the park fields. He squirmed in excruciating pain on the ground for a moment coughing up blood, reaching for his teammates before he died.

    I was horrified. Even though he was an enemy, seeing him die right in front of me made me sick. Lightheaded. I hunched myself over and hurled, vomiting the lunch I didn't know I had eaten. I felt like I was about to fall over. Tiffany had the presence of mind to hold me up for balance. I glanced at her, her facial expression oddly detached.

    "Aleph!" Tartys yelled, after seeing his disemboweled ally. "Bastard!"

    Tartys flew up into the air as a luminous energy formed around his golden blades, extending them. He aimed a for Kazuya's neck preparing to behead him.

    "Tartys!" Shekhinah warned while flying trying to reach him.

    It was too late; one of Kazuya's colossal sized tails had lashed him from behind, sending him flying before he was grasped by Kazuya with one paw-like hand. Kazuya summarily crushed Tartys, squeezing him tight enough for blood to drip from his hand. Shekhinah and Caphriel tried to save Tartys, but they were held at bay by Kazuya's swaying tails.

    Kazuya threw Tartys into his mouth, chomping down on him hard as he screamed for mercy. Hearing the disgusting sound of skin and bone being twisted, torn, and crushed by razor-sharp teeth as blood-drenched the ground made me feel nauseous inside. Kazuya spat Tartys out, his lifeless body hitting the ground with a pitiful thud before it was crushed by Kazuya's hand.

    "You monster," Caphriel gasped, seeing how quickly her friends had fallen. Kazuya wasted no time as a ball of white light, of pure energy, formed in the front of his open maw. Before I could blink, Kazuya projected the ball outward. It shot like a laser beam from his mouth, the sound of it ringing through the air. The beam immolated Caphriel, disintegrating her before she had time to react.

    Kazuya roared again his voice echoing through the sky. He turned to look at my sister and I. My heart stopped. He was going to kill us next. Before I could even piss myself, Kazuya turned to look at Shekhinah, who had fallen to the ground in despair looking at where her friends stood before only a few moments ago.

    "So that was it," Shekhinah said in a shaky voice, disillusioned as her lance rolled out of her weak grip. "You were given one of those seals..."

    Tears welled up in her eyes. "This was pointless from the start."

    The giant fox stopped over to Shekhinah and then stopped in front of her. Shekhinah glanced upward, look Kazuya in the eyes as tears ran down her face. She was unafraid. Shekhinah may have been defeated but she would die like a warrior, with pride and honor.

    "What are you what are you waiting for? Kill me."

    Kazuya roared in her face saliva raining down on Shekhinah before he closed eyes tightly and locked his jaw shut. Kazuya started to shake forcefully like he was struggling to make a decision. Soon after, a bright aura wrapped around his body as he shrunk back down to his human size, fur disappearing from his skin as it was shed off. The tattoo on his back that glowed orange from before had turned black.

    Kazuya rubbed his forehead softly as if he had a terrible headache. "Is that what you want me to do, my love?"

    Shekhinah looked down at the ground. "I failed my mission, against you that means death. I let my team die. It won't be acceptable for me to appear before Lord Corinath like this. I cannot face him with such disgrace... It's only fitting for me to be with my subordinates."

    Kazuya rolled his eyes. "You didn't kill them. I did."

    He smirked as Shekhinah looked at him angrily her fists tightening. "I won't kill you Shekah. I can't, even if I wanted to. The Sacred Seal was the last thing I had in my arsenal and it's not really my power in the first place. I don't have any energy left to fight. You on the other hand..."

    He glanced the lance that near his feet. Shekhinah didn't make an effort to reclaim it.

    "You could if you wish to. I'm in your hands now. What will it be?" Kazuya asked.

    Shekhinah turned away from him refusing to answer. Kazuya simply grinned at her before turning away. She had lost her desire to fight. As Kazuya approached us I gawked at the destruction he had caused. If anyone saw us and took video or pictures, we'd on the news in a heartbeat. Surprisingly the police or SIGMA didn't appear yet.

    "Ladies," Kazuya said with a smile. "Are you alright?"

    Tiffany nodded but I didn't move.

    "You killed them..." I whispered.

    Just like that three lives had vanished before my eyes. Kazuya nodded. "And they would have killed you if I didn't. Or report you to the Lords of the Twelve Celestial Kingdoms at least. Trust me, we don't need the entire Arcadian military on our necks."

    Tiffany eyed the Arcadians warrior still on her knees. "Then why didn't you kill her? Won't she tell?" she asked.

    I looked at my sister, appalled. Was she really advocating for Kazuya to kill someone else?

    "She won't, so it's not worth it. I don't need to kill an opponent whose will has been broken."

    Tiffany frowned but I couldn't tell what she was thinking. Maybe she didn't believe him. I had my own reservations about that as well, he didn't seem to have a problem with getting rid of the other Arcadians, even Caphriel who knew attacking him after he transformed was futile.

    "She won't attack us," Kazuya said trying to ease our worries. "I can promise you that."

    "Seems like you guys have a history," Tiffany remarked.

    Before Kazuya could reply, he grabbed his chest hard—with a hand over his heart. He locked his eyes shut, gritting his teeth in pain as he fell to the ground on his stomach. Kazuya coughed while writhing in the grass. Breathing heavily while spitting out thick phlegm as he started hyperventilating. The tattoo on his back started to glow, but he wasn't moving.

    "Kazuya?" I asked in a worried voice. I touched his shoulder feeling the heat seep off of his skin. Hot! It was like his whole body was having a fever. "Kazuya!" I shook his body but he still wouldn't respond. "What's wrong? Kazuya!"

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; August 10th, 2018 at 03:47 AM.

  9. #9
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Dec 2014
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    Caught

    “What happened to him?” I whispered, looking down at Kazuya—his eyes closed shut, my hands still gripping him shakily. Worried, I glanced at Tiffany. The expression on her face was oddly muted. Tiffany looked back at me blankly before glancing down at Kazuya’s unconscious body. She shook her head.

    “I don’t know,” she said.

    The tattoo on his back started to glow brighter as he thrashed about ferociously in obvious pain. Tiffany quickly sat next to me, trying to help me hold Kazuya down as he flailed about. She eventually pulled me away from him as I was nearly hit by one of his powerful tails—claiming it was dangerous to stay next to him and that I was insane for even wanting to in the first place.

    I tried to shrug her off but she wasn’t having it. As I struggled to pry myself away from my sister’s grip, we didn’t notice Shekhinah approach us. Eventually, we did notice her and realizing that the warrior who had threatened our lives was still near us caused us to clam up. Tiffany and I stood up backed away from Kazuya as Shekhinah advanced, looking at his body on the ground with narrowed eyes.

    “Back off,” Tiffany warned, standing in front of me, attempting to shield me from the Arcadian warrior. Shekhinah gave her a sharp glance, her eyes full of grief and anger before returning her gaze to Kazuya.

    “He used too much power,” Shekhinah muttered, her voice bitter. “The sacred seal is killing him.”

    Both Tiffany and I stared in silence as she knelt at Kazuya’s side. Feeling Tiffany’s grip loosening, I freed my wrist from her hand and approached Shekhinah ignoring my twin’s shocked protest.

    “That seal… it’s responsible for the power he used before. How he was able to transform. Is that reason he’s dying?”

    Shekhinah turned her head fixing me with a glare. “The Sacred Seal was given to The Valterian clan leaders by those were once Irregulars, the Old Gods.”

    Old Gods? I thought. Kazuya had mentioned something about the Irregulars before. Were the Old Gods a particular group of them? A sect?

    “Kazuya must have been given the seal by the leader of the Fox clan,” Shekhinah continued, not noticing me lost in thought. “It bestows the power of the Old Gods on the user but not without a tremendous price. It requires a considerable amount of spiritual energy to use and control and he is lacking it. As he is now, he will die from the strain.”

    Tiffany frowned, looking at Shekhinah suspiciously. “Didn’t you poison him? You said you did with your spear.”

    I was reminded of the battle that Kazuya and Shekhinah had earlier during the night; memories of Kazuya’s shoulder being pierced by a shining lance the color of blood materializing in my mind’s eye.

    Shekhinah shook her head, answering Tiffany’s question. “It was said that the powers of the Old Gods could heal all things,” she glanced back at Kazuya. “With the amount of vapor he released in that form, I can believe it. I can’t sense my energy inside him, the seal was able to burn the poison out from within.”

    Tiffany hummed to herself, glancing at me slightly before facing Shekhinah. “So I take it you don’t want to kill fox-boy anymore? Judging by the way you’re talking about him and explaining everything. I mean if you were going to you would’ve done it by now.”

    Shekhinah gritted her teeth while looking downward, almost like she was hiding her face in shame. “I… I was tasked to bring Kazuya back,” Shekhinah said, spitting out Kazuya’s name in spite, “by any means possible. Dead or alive. I should’ve have killed him. I should kill him. For what he did to my subordinates. My warriors.” Shekhinah’s fists tightened. “My students…”

    My eyes widened as a feeling akin to fear rose in my gut.

    “But killing him won’t bring them back. An easy death is not sufficient enough for the pain he has caused.”

    I bit the edge of my lip as I saw tears roll down Shekhinah’s cheeks. I felt pain in my chest. A dull but warm feeling. Even though Shekhinah was an enemy, seeing her in turmoil, overcome with emotion was almost unbearable. Her students had been killed by someone she presumably had a deep relationship with. I didn’t know—I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what she was feeling but I still felt the urge to comfort her, even though I couldn’t do anything.

    “Well,” Tiffany said, pulling me out of my thoughts and feelings. “If you’re not gonna kill us or that lump of fur, what will you do? Can you stop him from dying?”

    “The only thing I can do to possibly save him is to bring him to Arcadia as a prisoner, ” Shekhinah said. “But now, I’m hesitant to do so.”

    “Why is that?” Tiffany asked.

    Shekhinah ignored her, turning away from us and grabbed Kazuya’s arm getting ready to lift him from off the ground. Kazuya had become less volatile—his body had stopped twisting and turning wildly, his tails no longer swaying through the air like walloping branches.

    “Wait,” I said suddenly. My sister gave me a questioning look. It wasn’t rational but I didn’t want Shekhinah to take Kazuya away. I had a bad feeling that if she did I wouldn’t see him ever again.

    “What is it?” Shekhinah asked.

    “Don’t take him.”

    “You want me to save him, don’t you? Then I need to take him to Arcadia.”

    I shook my head. “There has to be another way. We can call for an ambulance or, maybe SIGMA, they have medics that specialize in capes.”

    Shekhinah scoffed at the notion. “This illness is beyond the power of simple humans and hallowed such as capes. It is divine in origin.”

    I narrowed my eyes. “And hallowed aren’t? Kazuya told us about how halloweds really get their powers. They’re descendants of Valterians.”

    Shekhinah frowned. Tiffany tapped me on the arm.

    “Why are you so adamant about it?” she asked. “The longer you keep her here the worse he’s going to get. He looks like he’s gonna croak any second now.”

    I hissed through my teeth. “They know about us. The both of them. Don’t you want to know why? If she takes him now we may never find out anything.”

    I wanted, no, I needed to know what these strange visions I had meant.

    Tiffany shook her head exasperated. “Mercy, you seriously think we’re hallowed?”

    “Of course!” I said looking at her dismayed that she didn’t feel the same way. “Don’t you? Why else would Kazuya have said what he did?”

    Shekhinah glanced at me quietly—she paused for a moment before looking down at Kazuya’s body still lying peacefully on the grass. The sacred seal on his back had stopped glowing. Her mouth opened wide in shock when she had touched Kazuya again.

    “He’s no longer burning from within,” she muttered.

    Within moments, Kazuya body changed—transforming back into a fox.

    “What happened?” I asked.

    “It seems that Kazuya has a better fortune that I’d have thought.”

    “Is he okay, somehow?”

    “The sacred seal was reacting violently because of the lack of vapor in his body, however, his condition has stabilized. Kazuya is a natural born master at pulling and transmuting spiritual energy from the environment. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did it unconsciously.”

    Shekhinah grabbed the comatose Kazuya by the scruff, but before she could disappear with him I stepped forward.

    “Wait a minute. You said he was fine now right?”

    Shekhinah turned her head slightly, glancing at me with the corner of her eye. “It is my duty to complete my mission and bring him to Arcadia.”

    Tiffany snorted, walking up to Shekhinah fearlessly. Tiffany took the small fox from Shekhinah’s arms while looking her in the eyes daring the Arcadian warrior to strike her.

    “Tiffany!” I hissed. “Are you freaking crazy?”

    Tiffany waved me off awkwardly with Kazuya in her arms. “She won’t do anything. She could have gotten rid of us anytime but she hasn’t. If she really wanted to take this guy wherever she would have grabbed him and been long gone. Instead, she’s busy entertaining our dumb questions. Isn’t that right Ms. Arcadian?”

    My teeth clamped shut as my body felt wrought with anxiety. Did Tiffany have to be so antagonizing?

    When Shekhinah didn’t respond, Tiffany continued. “You don’t want to take this little guy back to heaven do you?” she asked, dangling Kazuya by one of his tails. “Probably too good for him. Anyway, before you said you’re not sure about taking him and now you say it’s your duty. Which is it?”

    “Tiff,” I muttered harshly in a desperate attempt to get her to stop talking. She was going to get us killed.

    Shekhinah’s brow furrowed deeper. Her calm and cool demeanor replaced with an expression of anger and indignation. “You really are an insolent child.”

    Shekhinah took a step toward us, causing us to quickly run the opposite direction. Tiffany and I dispersed through the dark neighborhood streets, Kazuya still in my sister’s arms. I didn’t know how long we ran but we moved together without looking back to see our pursuer. After few minutes we noticed Shekhinah wasn’t giving chase. Had we lost her? We waited a little while longer before heading back toward our home, stealthily passing by the neighborhood park that had been turned into a battlefield. Shekhinah was nowhere to be found. Instead around the perimeter were two SIGMA vans and a few cop cars. I noticed a couple of SIGMA agents inspecting the dead torn apart the body of the Arcadian warrior Aleph and the giant paw prints left behind by Kazuya’s large fox form.

    Tiffany and I observed the group for a little while before moving on, sticking to the shadows of the houses close by so we wouldn’t be seen. Soon we found ourselves back on Easton Ave. Internally, a cool feeling of relief washed over me. Almost home.

    We didn’t talk much the rest of the way, I was too busy replaying what happened during the night over and over again in my head. Tiffany looked at me with worry, picking up on my conflicted mood.

    “Are you alright?” she asked. “What’s wrong Ems?”

    “I’m fine.”

    Tiffany had blown a gasket after hearing my reply, her worry quickly snapping to anger. “Fine? you’re fine?

    Tiffany shook her head exasperatedly while flailing her hands in utter disbelief. “So let’s see,” she said beginning to count with the fingers on one hand.” You get drunk at Tim’s party and pretty much lose it, nearly get raped by the douchebag, on top of that you run into a battle between freaking gods like an idiot and nearly get yourself killed. No, Mercy. You’re certainly not fine!”

    I rolled my eyes at her overblown antics, annoyed at her still bringing up my ex-boyfriend. “What? You want me to talk about it? Is that it? What good will that do?”

    “Better than trying to lock your emotions away and forget about it. You need to talk to someone.”

    I shook head. “I know that Tiff. I just—I don’t know what to feel about it right now. Any of it. I mean…” I gently took Kazuya from her arms and pet the sleeping fox, smoothing the fur behind his ears. “All this is so much to take in. I need time.”

    Tiffany sniffed with the hint of a smile on her face as she looked forward at the street ahead. “Well, when you want to talk about it I’m ready to listen.”

    “Thank you,” I said smiling back, before glancing at Kazuya resting peacefully in my arms. "Hopefully, once this guy wakes up, we can figure out what’s going on.”

    Tiffany glanced at me thoughtfully. “So who was the person the both of you talked about earlier, Nature—was it?”

    I nodded. “One of the Elder Gods, apparently she’s responsible for creating our world. The whole universe, basically.”

    Tiffany tilted her head slightly. “And you saw her.”

    “Yeah, after I nearly got cut in half. We talked about a couple of things.”

    “Oh yeah? What about?”

    I looked at my twin sister carefully, considering what Nature had told me. “She said bad stuff may happen soon and I need to protect you.”

    Tiffany laughed almost doubling over. She looked up wiping the tears of amusement from her eyes. “If anything, I’ll be the one protecting you.”

    I snorted but smiled all the same.

    “That place, the first realm was really amazing,”

    “Yeah?”

    “Mm-hmm. Fields full of an endless amount of trees that went on forever and they were these huge blades of fire surrounding the edges of everything, close to the horizon. Nature said something about a Tree of Life, but I don’t think I saw it.”

    “Tree of Life? Sounds like a real Garden of Eden.”

    “Mm-hmm. She mentioned two other gods helped her make everything.”

    Tiffany hummed quietly in acknowledgment. We walked in silence for a moment.

    “What kinds of gods are they really?” Tiffany mused. “If they’re all powerful and needed us for something important why did they let you get hurt? They didn’t help at all.”

    I shrugged. “Maybe because Kazuya was here. I don’t think Nature would have personally asked me to do anything if I was going to die. She said that he’d explain everything to us. Like if we’re hallowed or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kazuya knew her personally, based on his reaction when I dropped her name. “

    Tiffany gave me a pensive look. “How do you know whatever you saw wasn’t a dream or something?”

    I frowned at her. “Even if it was does that make it any less real? But I don’t think Kazuya would have responded the way he did if it was just a dream. Considering all the crazy stuff that happened to us today, it wouldn’t be wise to doubt.”

    Tiffany hummed grudgingly. “You’re right, this is a lot to take in. After fox-boy crash landed in front of us I’ve been asking myself ‘is this really happening’ all night. I still feel like I’m dreaming.”

    “Yeah.”

    “Still, I wonder why Nature wanted you to protect me when I spend most of the time looking after you.”

    I gave her a mischievous smile. “Well, maybe cause you’re not doing a good job.”

    Tiffany scoffed, pretending to be annoyed. “I do but it’s not my fault you go looking for trouble.”

    I chuckled. “Don’t worry, I won’t run in front of a sword swinging maniac again.”

    Tiffany narrowed her eyes, looking at me doubtfully. “You better not.”

    “You don’t trust me?” I asked in a whining pleading voice. “Your own twin sister?”

    Tiffany rolled her eyes. “Stop it.”

    Within minutes we were home. We quickly scuffled across the backyard of our house, hoping to sneak inside quietly with our parents none the wiser. As we reached the cellar door next to the patio deck, I pulled the house keys from my pocket.

    Tiffany held Kazuya while I opened the door.

    “He still hasn’t woken up,” I said.

    “We can worry about that after we get inside.”

    We walked down the stairway after I closed the cellar door, my sister leading us through a small hallway that was connected to the main basement room. Turning on the lights as we entered, I looked around. Our basement actually was a pretty snazzy place. Dad had a bar installed a couple months back, kept full with various drinks to entertain guests. He even put a pool table next to it. A couple of our bean bag chairs were spread around the lounge area next some of two long sofas, close to the widescreen television.

    I laid Kazuya on one of the couches before turning to my sister. “What should we do now?”

    Tiffany shrugged while scrolling through a web browser on her cell phone. “I dunno. Maybe take him to the vet?”

    “Tiffany, can you be serious for once?”

    “Calm down, alright?” Tiffany looked at me, annoyed. “You’re too freaking loud. You’re gonna wake Mom and Dad,” My sister motioned toward Kazuya with a hand. “Anyway this guy is supposedly a god and he didn’t die yet so he probably won’t now.” She took another look at her phone. “He had a fever before. We can try putting a wet towel around his ears.”

    “That’s what you’re looking up on the phone?”

    “Yeah. I can only find what helps for sick dogs though.”

    “Better than nothing,” I muttered.

    I paused by the entrance of the stairway leading to the main floor before beckoning Tiffany to come with me to get water for Kazuya. My sister and I walked up the stairs, trying not to make too much noise, lest we wake up our parents.

    “It’s kind of weird,” I whispered.

    “What is?” my twin asked, her voice soft.

    “I have this feeling of worry in my chest when I think about Kazuya. Not like I’m afraid of him or anything. It’s just—I really want him to be okay.”

    The corners of Tiffany’s lips quirked up a little. “You’re worrying too much, about the wrong things. I don’t know why we even brought him back here. He’s dangerous and the people after him are dangerous too. There’s no telling what he’ll do when he wakes up. He’ll probably blow up our house.”

    I shook my head. “Didn’t you feel it though? When he was about to get stabbed by that Arcadian?”

    “Feel what?”

    “I don’t know. Don’t you feel like he knows you somehow? That we know him? I just—I had this weird vision before I ran in front of him. It was like back when we really young, he was carrying us somewhere. He knows us. I’m sure of it.”

    Tiffany frowned at my words as we had reached the kitchen. “But that doesn’t make any sense,” she said confused.

    A familiar masculine voice cut through the air. “I agree.”

    Tiffany and I froze like deer in headlights as our father flicked on the lights to the room, standing next to the hallway entrance that led to the bedroom staircase. Mother was right by him, her arms folded and looking just as disappointed. The fear of my parents’ wrath started to twist and tear through my stomach like a meat grinder.

    “Where were the both of you?” Dad demanded.

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; August 10th, 2018 at 03:57 AM.

  10. #10
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    R.I.P.

    "Well?" Dad repeated, his gaze sharp. "Where were you?"

    Tiffany opened her mouth to speak, stuttering over her her words. I decided it would be better to tell the truth than try to make something up. There was no way we were getting out of this.

    I stepped forward. "Timothy was throwing a party after the game and we wanted to go." Seeing Dad not pleased with my answer, I weakly added. "Everyone else was there."

    Dad shook his head, hand going through his brown hair. "The both of you snuck out in the middle of the night without telling anybody where you were going. What if something had happened to you?"

    I glanced down, unwilling to look my dad in the eyes. Shame and guilt burned in my stomach.

    "Sorry," Tiffany and I said in unison.

    Mother stood up straight from the wall she was leaning on, narrowing her piercing blue eyes a bit to get a better look at me and my sister. Her mouth dropped as she noticed the torn rags I was wearing as a pitiful excuse for clothing.

    "What happened to you guys?" Mom asked with a stern voice of concern, noting the condition of our dirty clothes. "Mercy, why is your shirt torn?"

    On reflex, I covered myself, turning around and cowering from my parents gaze. Not knowing what to say, I clammed up.

    "Mercy, what happened?"

    "Did someone hurt you?" Dad asked.

    Internally, I felt annoyed as Mom and Dad kept pressuring me to answer. I didn't feel like talking but they would keep going until they found out the truth or were satisfied with what I said.

    "Mercy!" Mom demanded.

    "She had been drinking," Tiffany said. "We all were. Things kinda went bad and she got into a fight with another girl."

    I glanced at her slightly. Would they buy Tiffany's lie?

    Dad shook his head while Mom sighed, rubbing her temple with two fingers.

    "Goodness," Mom muttered. "A fight! Jesus, Mercy, are you hurt?"

    I shook my head. "I'm fine. I don't want to talk about it."

    My mind went back to the memory of Tim pretty much forcing himself on me while I was too out of it to defend myself. Even after the near death experiences and close calls we had after the party, my ex-boyfriend's actions still bothered me more.

    "I know how you both are getting older and want a bit of freedom but you're still teenagers that live under this roof. You could have at least told us before you went to the game that you wanted to go to a party. You know better."

    "It's not like you would let us go anyway," Tiffany said, bitterly.

    "We would have considered it," Dad said. "But staying at a boy’s house party until two o'clock in the morning? No, we wouldn't have let you go."

    Dad paused. "His parents weren't home, were they?"

    Tiffany and I shook our heads. Dad looked disappointed but not surprised.

    "Jennifer said they'd be out of town for the weekend," Mom offered, talking about Timothy's mom.

    "I'm going to have a talk with them when they get back," Dad said. " They have that kid running the whole house."

    I almost flinched at that. He wouldn't say it but Dad was never really fond of my ex, especially after we had started dating. Tiffany dating the effeminate looking Terra threw him for a loop too, but I think he liked Terra more.

    "You both are grounded for the week," Dad said definitively. "No cell phones and no internet. I'll let you have phones at school in case you need to call someone, but that's it. After school, you come straight home. No extracurriculars, no hanging around. No nothing. Come home, do your homework and study. Tell coach you're grounded and why you can't practice."

    I frowned inwardly. Coach Stephen wouldn't be happy, to say the least. No soccer practice meant that Tiffany and I would probably sit on the bench for a couple of games, having to earn our playing time back. I felt heated with anger while still knowing it was my fault.

    Dad turned away from us heading back upstairs. "We'll talk more about this tomorrow."

    Before Mom turned to follow, her stern gaze had softened. "You girls go get some rest. And Mercy, make sure you throw that shirt out."

    I softly acknowledged Mother before turning to look at Tiffany. Her eyes met mine.

    "Well, that could have been a lot worse," she said.

    I agreed, relieved we weren't grounded for a month. Tiffany and I made our way to our rooms, heading to bed.


    oOo

    I woke up in a cold sweat, having vivid nightmares about what had happened the night before. I remembered the faces of the Arcadians that were killed by Kazuya, how they yelled as they saw their teammates fall. How easily they had been torn apart. Thinking about it made my stomach curl. I exhaled briefly, before sitting up and pulling the covers off of my legs.

    "Did all that really happen?" I muttered to myself.

    I still couldn't believe it. But it was most certainly real; pulling up my shirt I could see the faint outlines on my body that were left by Tartys' twin blades. The scars had faded with the help of Kazuya's healing, but they still felt a little tender as my fingers traced the lines on my skin.

    I paused.

    For a moment I wondered what Tiffany and I would do this weekend considering the fact that we couldn't leave the house. Getting up, I went to the bathroom in the hallway, adjacent to my room. After brushing my teeth, I went downstairs to find Mom sitting at the kitchen table.

    "Good morning," I said, stifling a yawn.

    "Good morning, dear," she said pleasantly, her sandy blonde hair glowing from the sunlight coming through the kitchen window. "Breakfast is ready if you want to eat."

    I took a glance at the covered pots and pans on the kitchen counter full of warm food. My mouth started to water. I felt like I hadn't in days. Must have been the stress from last night. I fixed a plate and sat down at the table next to my mom.

    As I dug in, I noticed Tiffany was nowhere to be seen. "Where's sis?"

    "She's been in the basement since earlier morning. I don't know what she's doing in there."

    The image of Kazuya is his small fox form came to me. Even though he seemed relatively harmless like that, the thought of Tiffany alone with him made me feel nervous.

    "She hasn't come upstairs?"

    "I tried telling her breakfast was ready, but she said she wasn't hungry."

    "Mm."

    Considering my sister's actions, Kazuya must have woken up. Surprisingly, the house wasn't torn down. Maybe having him here wouldn't be so bad after all. Still eating I looked up from my plate.

    "Where's Dad? I didn't see him upstairs."

    "Your dad went to Timothy's place. Tiffany told him you had left your phone there last night. He's going to pick it up for you."

    Well, at least Tiffany and I didn't need to go over there again. I wondered how the meeting between Timothy and my father would go. He'd probably be terrified that a parent came over to check up on him, without warning. I didn't really matter though. It's not like Dad wouldn't talk to his parents about the house party he threw in their absence. He would be in trouble no matter what.

    The edges of my lips quirked up as I thought about how pleased Tiffany would be that he would get scolded twice. Seeing my face, Mom asked what was amusing me, but I told her it was nothing important.

    Finishing my meal, I got up from the table and put my plate in the sink before I prepared to clean the rest of the kitchen. After I finished washing dishes, I walked downstairs to the basement finding Tiffany watching TV while sitting next to Kazuya, who had changed to his human form.

    I was actually shocked, noticing he had on clothes for once. His long white hair was neater than before, refined as if he had spent hours going through it with a long comb and brush. Kazuya wore golden robes adorned with golden disks. A beautiful kimono with a brown hakama. He seemed... more dignified than before.

    "Mercy," He greeted with a smile. "How kind of you to join us."

    Tiffany rolled her eyes. "Hey, Ems."

    "I'm surprised you're awake," I said to Kazuya.

    "Of course. Were you hoping that I die?"

    My eyes widened. "What? I—no! I wasn't sure if you were okay or not, after everything that happened last night. Are you alright?"

    "Knock it off," Tiffany said, rounding on Kazuya. "Mercy was concerned for you the most. If it were up to me, I've gotten that Arcadian woman to take you so you'd be out of our hair."

    Kazuya chuckled. "But then you'd be in trouble when the Twelve Celestial Kingdoms sent more warriors to come after you and finish the job."

    Tiffany made a sound of disapproval. "Fair enough."

    "So, are you okay?" I asked.

    Kazuya leaned back on the sofa and put his arm on the top of the backrest, near Tiffany. Tiffany glared at Kazuya, miffed about how he unabashedly invaded her space—but he paid her no mind.

    "It will be a while before I reach my full strength," Kazuya said, after ragged breath. "It seems Triple Lotus Meditation sessions are in order."

    Tiffany frowned. "Say what now?"

    "A rigorous meditation method, my dear. I must absorb and condense spirit matter from the environment before transmuting it into my own, allowing me to use it without relying on something as dangerous as magic. It should allow me to recover my spiritual energy faster."

    I looked at him thoughtfully. "How long will that take?"

    "At most, a few weeks. The concentration of environmental vapor is lower here than that of the Realm of Heavens."

    Tiffany huffed while turning her head to look back at the TV. "Mercy, you're not asking the most important question, which is where did he steal that ridiculous outfit from?"

    I gave her a questioning look. "What?"

    "Oh come on, Ems. He looks like a freaking cosplayer, dressed like one of those guys from those animes that you watch."

    I laughed at that. She wasn't wrong, although Kazuya's clothing looked more authentic than a cheap outfit some cosplayer put together. Kazuya shook his head with an amused look on his face.

    "I'm aware that basking in the aura of my magnificence may cause you to start babbling nonsense, but I'd prefer it if you didn't make fun of my clothing."

    Oh my god. Kazuya was so insufferable. I shook my head and giggled with mirth. "She's not making fun of you, Kazuya. Tiff's just saying you dress similar to something we saw before on a show."

    "Where did you even get those clothes from anyway?" Tiffany asked Kazuya before turning to me. "I swear he pulled those out of nowhere. He was butt-ass naked, I look away for one second and after I turn around, he was clothed the next."

    "I have recovered enough that I'm able to pull things from my dimensional storage chambers. They hold many things, such as a particular brand of outfits."

    "Dimensional storage?" Tiffany asked. She glanced at me. "Christ. How many powers does this guy have?"

    I shrugged slightly. That's what I wanted to know.

    Before Kazuya could speak, we heard a knock on the basement door. I hesitated, holding my breath as Mom cracked the door open, looking down. Luckily, she couldn't see Kazuya from upstairs since He and my sister were sitting on the sofa opposite of me—the seat against the wall next to the staircase.

    "What are you girls so excited about down there?"

    Crap. Did she hear us talking to Kazuya?

    "We're just watching a show on TV, Mom," Tiffany called back. "Glavemore Girls."

    Mom chuckled. "Oh. I see. I won't stop your fun then. Oh, by the way, your dad is back home. Mercy, he has your cell phone."

    "Tim gave it to him?"

    "They had to go looking for it. The house was a mess. I still can't believe that boy. Jennifer and Will are going to be in for a surprise."

    Mom left without coming downstairs, leaving us to our own devices. I let out a sigh of relief. "That was a close one."

    "Please. She wasn't gonna come down here Ems."

    "I know. I thought she noticed he," I pointed at Kazuya. "was down here at first, though."

    I looked at Kazuya for a moment, looking into his golden eyes. "So... what are you going to do now? Are you gonna stay with us?"

    "Uh—not if that means more of those Arcadians are gonna show up and come after us," Tiffany commented.

    "If Shekhinah returns empty-handed, considering that I killed her subordinates, the Twelve Celestial Kingdoms will be hesitant to come after me again so soon, for fear of losing more warriors pointlessly. I'm not someone to trifle with at full strength and they know this."

    Tiffany hummed. I looked at Kazuya the slight fear I had when I first saw him rekindling in my chest. Even though he seemed to be on our side, I couldn't forget how dangerous he was and his carefree attitude toward taking the life of another.

    "The Arcadians won't be a problem for some time," Kazuya continued. "The Kairanna kingdom doesn't like to look incompetent. However, I wouldn't be surprised if they tried something underhanded in secret. They tout about being a righteous and honest kingdom, but they are no different than the rest."

    "Kairanna?" He had used that word before.

    Kazuya paused to look at me. "The name of one Twelve Celestial Kingdoms that govern Arcadia. Kairanna is said to be the most powerful and has the highest standing amongst the kingdoms. That is where Shekhinah and the group of warriors following her hail from."

    "Wow," I said, thinking about what he told us. "So then, are you going to leave, if they try to find you?"

    Kazuya glanced at me thoughtfully. "I'm considering it."

    I shook my head. "You should stay with us. At least until you're better."

    Tiffany harrumphed. "Too bad we can't keep outside in the backyard. We would be able to if we had a dog house or something," she looked at Kazuya gleefully. "I always wanted a pet."

    "You're like a dog yourself," Kazuya remarked, "so it's not really surprising."

    "Fuck you," Tiffany growled, approaching Kazuya with a scowl as he looked on calmly.

    I stepped in front of her, blocking the way. I gave her a look. Had she lost her mind? "Hey guys, stop it! No fighting."

    Kazuya looked at us, pleased with himself. Apparently, he was enjoying the fact that he could easily get underneath Tiffany's skin.

    Kazuya shifted a bit on the sofa to get more comfortable. He gave us a faint smile. "I wouldn't mind staying here for some time after all."

    Tiffany rolled her eyes. "See what you did Ems? Now we have a big hairy freeloader stuck living in our basement."

    Kazuya glanced at her bemused. With the wave of a hand a golden portal had formed in the middle of the air. A small but fairly decorative goblet full of strong wine had slowly floated out of the portal and into his hand. Tiffany and I looked at him, shocked as he gracefully took a swig of the golden silver cup.

    "Anything you could offer me I probably have tenfold," Kazuya said, after letting out a sigh of relief. "Of the finest quality too."

    So that was his dimensional storage power in action... I wondered how many things he could hold. Maybe it was like an infinite hammerspace.

    "I was going to offer you something to drink," I said. "But I guess I don't need to get you anything."

    "Ah, but I appreciate the thought, my child," Kazuya said. He turned to Tiffany giving her a playful smile. "I see at least one of you knows how to be a gracious host."

    "Don't make me come over there and slap you. I won't let Ems hold me back this time."

    Kazuya ignored her threat. "It has been a while since I had tried food from this planet, however," he nodded toward me. "Fetch me something good to sate my appetite, if you would."

    "Are you serious?" Tiffany asked distastefully with a frown. "Such a useless freeloader. At least have the decency to ask politely. Mercy, don't bring him anything."

    Tiffany and Kazuya continued to go on and on, taunting each other and shooting out thinly veiled insults one after another. I shook my head at their continued bickering as I turned around to head upstairs and to bring Kazuya something to eat. I felt a little bothered by Kazuya ordering me around but Kazuya was probably doing that on purpose, having fun picking on my sister and me.

    Getting to the top of the basement steps I closed the door, hoping our parents weren't close enough to hear Tiffany cursing Kazuya out. I walked to the kitchen thinking about the weird visions I'd had been having about Kazuya and that dragon king. I chose not to burden Kazuya with questions since he had just woken up from nearly dying, he needed to rest. But who was he really? Why did I feel a deep connection with him and what was that place of seven moons? Or that place of golden cities surrounded by clear water as far as the eyes could see? I knew he could tell us.

    I wanted answers and I would have them. Soon enough.

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; August 10th, 2018 at 05:14 AM.

  11. #11
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Interlude I - Kazuya

    Kazuya smirked with satisfaction, sailing across the night sky at speeds the human eye could barely register. His tails swam through the air as he jumped from the rooftop of one skyscraper to the next, his golden kimono driving back the vivid darkness. Kazuya took the time to appreciate the bustling nightlife along the city waterfront below before he looked toward the horizon.

    No, Ravensworth wasn’t as beautiful nor as technologically or spiritually advanced as Paradise. This city was no golden capital of Dragonbornnia; it was no pride of Valteria. But it would do.

    It was always nice to see how far humanity had come. With the help of Valterians acting behind the scenes, of course.

    Compared to most cities in North America, Ravensworth was a hotbed for spiritually aware beings. Of the approximate one million and two hundred thousand people that lived in the city, at least a fourth of them could have been considered hallowed or had supernatural abilities.

    All things had vapor. Sapient beings, animals, and even inorganic objects to an extent. To Valterians, vapor was the life-force that powers and was self-generated by the soul or the consciousness of a being. It was as vital to the spirit as blood was to a physical organism.

    Sensing the amount of vapor in the atmosphere that was unconsciously given off by Ravensworth’s residents, Kazuya felt that the SIGMA assessment was accurate: twenty-five percent of the city’s population were indeed hallowed. Unusual for most human cities in America, but Kazuya was confident in his sensory abilities. Most of the vapor signatures were fairly weak though. Kazuya surmised that probably only three percent of Ravensworth’s hallowed population had powers of any relevance.

    Though hallowed made up nine to ten percent of the world’s population, for most big cities on average there were only two hallowed to every ten people. For rural areas eight hundred to every twenty thousand.

    Not to mention that influence of the Forum, a group of Valterians that controlled the Earth’s governments from the shadows was an ever-present part of the city—the cult’s tendrils covertly wrapping around the human secret societies, government organizations, and the various villain and hero groups throughout the world. It was difficult to escape a connection to one of their controlled fraternal orders. Practically every major town and city had been built on a secret edifice.

    The actual members of the Forum didn’t travel together in large groups, making them hard to locate. Usually, no more than three would be found together in a public area. Four at the most. Kazuya hadn’t been able to sense any hidden Valterians all night, but that wasn’t surprising. Acting in the world in secrecy for millennia, they had mastered the art of repressing their vapor signatures, leaving the masses blind to events they had orchestrated throughout history. They always managed to cover their tracks well.

    Being out in the open would attract attention from the Valterian and Arcadian rulership. Powerful beings attract powerful enemies after all. However, though he could not locate the Forum members residing in the city, there were two distinct, familiar Valterian signatures he was aware of—one that was practically blaring through the atmosphere to get his attention ever since he had landed on the planet.

    Making another jump, Kazuya hit the side of a skyscraper on all fours. Sending spiritual energy to his hands and feet, he morphed his fingers and toes into sharp claws, using his vapor to stick to the glass surface. Within a second, he scurried across the glass building, launching himself upward. As Kazuya flung himself over the top of the structure, he let gravity pull him toward the ground. His feet gracefully hit the edge of the building with a tap as he stood up straight, completely balanced.

    Looking at the lively city below, thoughts of recent events and his current predicament rolled over in his mind. Mercy and Tiffany—even if the latter twin wouldn’t admit it—would probably be worried when they would wake to find him gone the next day, thinking he had left them to fend for themselves with their questions unanswered.

    He would be back to check on them; however, it had been a rough few weeks, and he needed time away from the pestering girls that put him in that disparaging living situation. He needed time away from everyone. He needed time to himself.

    Time to think, to get his thoughts and feelings sorted out. Kazuya glanced at his shoulder before rolling it twice. It looked as good as new, completely healed after his use of the Sacred Seal; yet, the phantom pain from being struck by Shekhinah’s ruby-shaded lance still lingered.

    Exhaling silently, Kazuya leaped from the roof of the skyscraper, once more descending into the night. He had a meeting, someone was waiting for him, and it wouldn’t be good to be late. Getting a better sense of the subdued Valterian energy signature from below, he headed toward Ravensworth’s nightlife scene.

    Finding himself deep inside the Downtown area, Kazuya approached the rooftop of a small pub that was almost hidden between the various restaurants, bars and, shops in the area. Kazuya consciously made an effort to lower his vapor as he landed in a dark alley across from the bar, not wanting to draw attention to himself. Using his ability to shapeshift, he absorbed his white tails into his body and slightly shortened his hair. He then morphed his clothing into something more casual, his kimono and sandals changing into a simple dress shirt with pants and well-polished shoes.

    No need to change his face: it wasn’t like anyone here would recognize him. Before entering the bar, he looked up at the sign on top of the building. The sign above the bar read The Minister’s Hall. He had been told of this place earlier by the contact he was going to meet.

    It was a truce zone of sorts, an establishment that openly welcomed halloweds. Villains would often meet here in costume to discuss future plans and even heroes were seen here occasionally. Most of the time the government-sponsored heroes came around, however, was to mediate talks between the villain groups or help facilitate negotiations between the heroes and villains.

    It was a good place to find information on capes if you knew who to talk to. It wasn’t as lavish as he would quite prefer, but it was clean, nice, and comfortable. The wooden floors gave a homey feeling, the bar itself neat and polished. There weren’t any windows toward the back, but the yellow lights gave off a nice, even glow that was dim enough and perfect for the pub atmosphere.

    Instead of sitting at the bar, Kazuya looked at the tables on the other side of the pub, his eyes leading him to the source of the spiritual energy he was following. Looking back at him was a man sitting at one of the tables, wearing a blue overcoat and a fedora. Kazuya’s lips quirked upward with recognition. The person he was to meet was none other than Philo, the friend that had come to his aid when rescuing Mercy and Tiffany’s true parents; Philo was Valterian god of science and mystery.

    Kazuya approached Philo calmly, internally feeling a bit of anticipation. He looked forward to telling his friend all that had gone on since they had narrowly escaped Corinath’s wrath.

    At that time, Corinath and the other Lords of the Twelve Celestial Kingdoms were outraged that one of their own would break the ancient laws against mating with those they considered heathens. His friends, Malachi and Sibyl, were slated for execution, the Arcadian military sent after them along with Corinath himself, presumably enraged that his son would betray him. Malachi and his wife were real parents of the twin Valterian-Arcadian hybrid children, not the two useless agents SIGMA had running about.

    He chuckled internally at the thought. The reaction the girls would have after being released from the induced amnesia given to them for the last ten years would be glorious.

    Kazuya sat across from Philo quietly and beckoned a waitress with a hand to come to serve the table. As the twenty-something looking girl nervously took Kazuya’s order—taken in by Kazuya’s natural charisma and alluring smile no doubt—he looked around slowly, enjoying the ambiance.

    Kazuya noticed that there two hallowed on opposite ends of the pub, neither in costume. They looked ordinary enough, like regular humans. Perhaps they wanted to stay low key? They could blend in easily with the other patrons none the wiser. It made sense. Not all hallowed wanted to be capes. Some people just wanted to have a normal life.

    After the young lady hand returned with the drinks Kazuya ordered, he looked at it with a dissatisfied sniff. The alcohol that humans served now was so much weaker than that of what was given centuries ago.

    Philo didn’t say anything, his glowing blue eyes drifting as he observed Kazuya. Kazuya said nothing either, his own eyes tracing over Philo’s metal-encased face. The two remained in silence for a few moments longer, before Philo reached inside his coat. Kazuya stiffened, but all Philo did was begin to speak.

    “You took your time,” he said, his voice low. “This place will close soon.”

    Kazuya smiled. “I was distracted by the city nightlife.”

    Philo scoffed. “I don’t like to have my time wasted, Kazuya.”

    Kazuya leaned back in his chair, unbothered by Philo’s irritation. “You should learn to relax a bit, Philo. Instead of being cooped up in that lair of yours. Getting some light every now and then is good for you.”

    Philo snorted, pointing upward toward the ceiling lights with a finger. “You call that light? My lab is ten times brighter than this.”

    Kazuya shrugged, amused by his friend’s trivial complaints. “You forget the atmosphere we are in.”

    Philo waved a hand in dismissal. “I never really liked taverns.”

    “No? You were the one that suggested we meet here.”

    “Because we could talk here undisturbed, and it was an easy place for you to find. ”

    “Sure, sure.”

    Philo glared at Kazuya for a moment. “Why did you want to meet in public so soon after that Arcadia fiasco? You know it’s better for us to stick to the shadows at this time. I’m almost surprised you’re still alive, considering the injuries you had.”

    Kazuya chuckled.

    To save the parents of the Mercy and Tiffany, Kazuya had left Valteria alone, not willing to wait for help from his people who were still disgruntled by the actions he had taken earlier that day; his fight with the ex-Valterian king. As he had arrived in at the Arcadian capital of Serenus, he had caused destruction tenfold, drawing the attention of the Arcadian military away from Malachi and Sibyl.

    Though he had been a bit careless with his execution, rashly killing innocent Arcadians, in his opinion the Arcadian response had been a bit much. Though the Arcadian military had mounted a counterattack, Kazuya had been able to escape and find the forbidden pair hiding in the forgotten lands of Asterralith.

    Corinath had been hot on their heels—chasing them down to the ends of the heavens. Exhausted, Kazuya had fought with his all to allow Sibyl and Malachi to escape with, Philo, and Jun, his own mate. Kazuya had gotten away soon after, managing to slip through Corinath’s fingers. He’d ended up being chased to Earth by Shekhinah and her fellow warriors.

    Kazuya huffed softly. “It would take more than Shekhinah and her students to kill me.” Kazuya raised his hands, openly. “As you can see, I have fully healed. I used the Sacred Seal.”

    Philo observed him quietly, not impressed by his theatrics. “You’ve healed physically at least. You’ve gotten better with your control of it.”

    “Oh?”

    “You held yourself from killing your little courtesan.”

    Kazuya gave a laugh. Philo must have been referring to how he had kept himself from eating Shekhinah. To Kazuya, the brief forbidden relationship that he had with his Arcadian mistress had drawn interesting parallels to the relationship between Malachi and Sibyl. Luckily, for Shekhinah’s sake, he had been discreet; for the most part, Kazuya had only met with her on sparsely populated terrestrial lands. Away from the Arcadian military’s prying eyes.

    Kazuya assumed Shekhinah must have jumped at the chance to chase after him when he had invaded Arcadia, considering how their tryst had ended. He smirked as he recalled the reaction Shekhinah had had when she had realized before their break up that he had used her to steal back a family heirloom of the Kairanna kingdom, an item that had originally belonged to the Valterian Fox clan. The Staff of Inari.

    “You were there then?” Kazuya asked, alluding to the last fight with Shekhinah. “Standing by when I could have been in my final moments?”

    Philo paused. It was hard for Kazuya to tell what exactly Philo was thinking with that expressionless metal mask on his face. He could feel an undercurrent of amusement in Philo’s vapor though.

    “I knew you would survive,” Philo said at last.

    “Is that because you knew I would use the Seal even though I hate it? Or was it those children?”

    “I was too far away,” Philo replied. “I would have sent Jun to your aid if things were dire enough, but after Mercy had gotten hurt, I wanted to see how things would play out.”

    Kazuya tilted his head, giving Philo a pensive look. “You were able to tell she had been contacted by Nature in that moment?”

    “Of course, who do you take me for, young fox?”

    Kazuya laughed at that. “Everything is young compared to your ancient self, old man.”

    Philo ignored his barb. “Still back to what I said before. You should know better. Being out in the open while weakened is not like you.” He raised a hand to silence Kazuya before he could interject. “Yes, you have alleviated the wounds of the body but not the wounds of the spirit. You cannot afford to be careless with the type of enemies you have. You know this.”

    “Careless? Never that,” Kazuya said with a slight smile. His smile dimmed as he sat up, facing his friend properly. “To be honest, I wanted to know if you were okay,” Kazuya said in a voiced laced with faux-concern. “After we nearly lost our lives and all.”

    Philo stared at him. Clearly, he didn’t appreciate Kazuya’s sarcasm.

    “Very well,” Kazuya said. “You already know why I’m here since you know everything. Why ask?”

    Philo turned his body away from the table looking toward the bar. “I’m not quite sure…”

    “The apple,” Kazuya said, looking at the hand Philo still had in his coat pocket. “Did you bring it?”

    “You didn’t ask for it,” Philo rasped. “Luckily, I am not you, and I actually remember important things. I have it. I knew what you were planning to do with this ever since we had taken four of the forgotten six to Earth.”

    Kazuya smiled, pleased that Philo had come through like always. “It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since we had saved those children from the fallout of the Bloodstained Festival.”

    “Yes,” Philo agreed. “Time passes quickly for us that never die.” He pulled an apple out from his coat and gently held it out. Kazuya snapped it up from his hands before storing it with his powers, placing it through a golden portal.

    He could have taken the time to carefully examine the fruit, but he trusted Philo. After all, he’d stolen it himself originally, right from under the Elder Gods: an apple from the Tree of Life, a fruit of tremendous power. It held the key to life; it was something that could return Mercy and Tiffany to their former glory.

    “Soon,” Kazuya mused, looking off into the distance, “with the way things are going, those girls may need their powers, their divinity. Their memories back.”

    “It’s not as easy as you say,” Philo said. “It’s possible that they might perish from consuming it now.”

    Kazuya frowned, but before he could reply, he felt a vapor energy enter the pub, energy so strong it threatened to knock him off his chair. It was the same Valterian signature he had felt broadcasting itself all over the city the entire night.

    Kazuya did not fall off his chair, of course; he was way too practiced in vapor resistance to actually show that something like that was affecting him. But it still startled him how that ridiculous woman would let her energy run free like that. She would draw all types of attention. Attention they didn’t need.

    Kazuya shook his head. She felt no need for subtlety or to stay hidden. Just like her old master, Decimatus. Kazuya glanced at her as she moved deeper into the bar. The woman wore a pale brown fur coat with moss green dress and dark brown scarf. Not bad. It was moderate compared to Kazuya’s extravagant style but it complemented her well. She made eye contact with him as she approached their table, putting on her usual facade of a vivacious personality. She greeted the both of them with her cheery voice, her eyes wide and her lips drawn back in a smile.

    “Kazuya! Philo! It has been too long,” she said, giving them both hugs while ignoring Philo’s protests. She glanced at Kazuya, the light in her amber eyes dancing. “So how are the wife and kids?”

    Kazuya rolled his eyes. “For the hundredth time, Venus, Jun isn’t my wife. She’s just a mate.”

    “Still frolicking through the realms with that Arcadian whore I see. I’m not surprised. Sometimes you make the most idiotic decisions. Challenging Decimatus to a losing battle and then running off after you were beaten black and blue to fight Corinath, to save a pair of fools? Really?”

    Kazuya narrowed his eyes and frowned at her. The painful memory etched itself in his mind; the long grueling duel he had had with Abratikhu-Decimatus Dragonborne, the great Valterian dragon god.

    He had challenged Decimatus to a fight, one that ex-Valterian king accepted. Perhaps that was a little foolish. For a moment, Kazuya replayed the events of the conversation he had had with the ex-king in his head. Decimatus had been in attendance of a feast held in his honor and hosted by Arden, his daughter and the new king Valteria. Kazuya had caught up with him during the party, and midway through had challenged him to a fight in jest.

    Decimatus, of course—damn his soul—took Kazuya’s gibe as a serious affront to his honor and combat prowess, demanding that they have a battle right outside of the castle dining hall. Kazuya, bored and looking for excitement at the time went through it, knowing Decimatus was one of the only beings in existence that could push him past his limits.

    Though he had lost, Kazuya’s decision to actually fight Decimatus instead of giving an apology didn’t go over well with most of the Valterians present—including one of his most precious students, King Arden.

    Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst of it. Soon after his fight with Decimatus, an aide had come to his side to give him a message: Sibyl and Malachi had been discovered together on Arcadia by Corinath. Though Kazuya had been tired from the battle with Decimatus, he’d known that he needed to go to Arcadia to save his old friends immediately.

    “I won’t even dignify that statement with a response,” Kazuya said to her at last.

    Venus went on, her gaze sharp. “I am serious, not making fun. What gave Malachi the gall to think that he could meet with Sibyl right under Corinath’s nose?”

    Kazuya shook his head and sighed. He hadn’t pegged Malachi as the impulsive type, but Kazuya knew that he could be very impatient at times. It didn’t help that Malachi had the habit of thinking with his heart instead of his head.

    “I will concede to you on that point. Regardless, Tamamo and Ninigi were fine when I saw them last.”

    “Ninigi!” Venus exclaimed. “Where is that bastard? He always promises to spend time with me and never shows.”

    Kazuya narrowed his eyes. Calling his son a bastard right to his face? The audacity of this woman. “My son and I haven’t talked since he had left his own family a few years ago. I’m not sure what that boy is up to now.”

    “And Tamamo?”

    “She resides in Paradise currently.”

    “Oh? Still waiting for you to bring back Inari’s staff?”

    “You know of that?” Kazuya asked with a slight smile. His young daughter would be pleased to finally get ahold of the staff of her grandfather as it was something Kazuya had promised to her long ago. Jun’s father, Inari Ōkami, had lost it a battle with Corinath about twenty thousand years ago, right before Corinath had become ruler of all of Arcadia in a skirmish between the Fox clan and Arcadian forces. Inari Ōkami was forever crippled from that battle, leaving Corinath victorious. But miraculously, the crafty fox survived.

    “I know of a lot of things, Kazu,” Venus said while she ran her gloved hands through her long, orange-brown hair, fixing the sunglasses that were on top of her head. “Well, I see that unlike her older brother she’s still of sound mind. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Ninigi’s probably messing around in the Animal Kingdom again. He mentioned something about training there to get stronger last time I talked to him.” She glanced at Philo quizzically. “What is it with boys and their training?”

    So Ninigi had disappeared to that no man’s land? Interesting. Kazuya filled that information in the back of his mind for later as he continued to listen to Venus’ complaints about how the Animal Kingdom shouldn’t even be considered to be part of the Nine Great Lands; she disliked the fact that it was a major territory in Valteria.

    “You know, I don’t remember inviting you to this meeting, my dear,” Kazuya said.

    “Ah,” Venus exhaled in an exaggerated fashion, placing an arm on Kazuya shoulder and giving him an open smile. “I couldn’t help myself after noticing that my brethren I haven’t seen in so long have arrived here in my city,” she paused. “You know how hard it is dealing with these humans. If you stay here alone in this god-forsaken place long enough, you’ll go crazy.”

    Kazuya eyed her, his head tilted a little. He favored her with a smile. Her city was it? This girl was too much.

    “How is it your city when you haven’t officially done anything to claim it?”

    “Oh Kazu,” she coddled. “I play the long game, you understand?”

    “Why are you really here?” Philo asked.

    “Something you had caught my eye. What you had given to Kazuya. An apple of life.” Venus put a hand on Philo’s shoulder, moving her face close to his silver one, causing him to flinch away. “How did you get it?”

    If Philo had any less control, he would have probably dipped his head into his palms right there. “Is this your way of mocking me? Kazuya is the one that took it. Even I don’t know how he had managed that.”

    Venus snickered. “Yes, that I do know. It seems you’re not as smart as you think you are, Philo. That’s something you need to work on. Your pride in your knowledge will only get you so far, you know.”

    “Is that the only reason you’re here?” Philo asked. “For the apple? Or perhaps you’re spying for the Forum?”

    Venus expression turned sour, her face losing its liveliness. She let go of Philo and glared at him. “As if I would associate with those Luciferian mongrels.”

    “Really?” Philo asked. “Considering your ultimate goal, the fact that you aren’t working for them is a surprise.”

    Venus fixed him with a glare that could freeze the sun. “I told you. You’re not as smart as you think you are. Don’t presume to know me.”

    Kazuya regarded the Valterian god of corruption as she fiddled with her golden necklace; she was busy having a staredown contest with Philo. For a second, he looked at the pendant running through her figures. The gem in the center filled with energy and corruption, like a ball of fire and molten rock. Venus looked toward him, drawing his gaze.

    “Now to get what I really wanted to speak on. Kazuya, you have an Arcadian problem, and it’s only going to get worse. We all know Corinath won’t be satisfied with the current turn of events.”

    “What are you saying?”

    “I am saying that I would like to offer my help.”

    Philo stiffened, giving Venus a skeptical look. Kazuya, though not worried, felt a little suspicious.

    “Why would you go out of your way to help us and fight a battle that isn’t yours?”

    Venus gave him a slight grin. It was the most genuine smile she had given him all night. “Because I have a vested interest in the six children you rescued in Avalon. Especially the two hybrids."

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; February 27th, 2018 at 07:23 PM.
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  12. #12
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Ode: Mercy


    We remain ignorant because we fear truth.
    Last edited by Fluxx; October 29th, 2017 at 11:02 AM.
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  13. #13
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Return From Heaven

    My sister and I sat down at a fairly empty table, placing our small lunch trays on its surface. I speared a nugget with my fork and popped it into my mouth, Tiffany eying me all the while. We ate in silence for a few more moments before she popped the question.

    “So, you keep seeing this huge castle in your dreams?”

    I swallowed before frowning. “Yeah. It’s been getting clearer.” Ever since we’d come across Kazuya, I’d been having dreams of that land and the castle where the dragon king resided—of the children who would play with us there. Two of them, a small black boy and a girl with Asian features, oddly reminded me of Nathan and Katherine, my classmates.

    “You see anyone in particular?”

    I paused for a moment, thinking that over. Kazuya had been there, with a group of Valterians together in a city of gold. “I saw another fox person too, a woman, like a female version of Kazuya. I think someone that looked like Shekhinah was there too—and some other Arcadians.”

    “That’s so weird,” Tiffany mused while frowning.” I haven’t had any visions or dreams like that at all. Maybe it’s a sign or something.”

    “Maybe,” I muttered. “I remember our mom and dad—I think it was Mom and Dad—holding our hands, walking with us in a golden city. Mom had wings like the other Arcadians did. Somehow, though, I knew she was a Valterian, like Kazuya. But she was a different race or something, you know? Kinda like how Kazuya explained how he, PTE, and Nexus were each from different breeds.”

    Tiffany nodded. “What did Dad look like?”

    I pressed my lips together in contemplation. “Not sure, it’s still kinda fuzzy. It’s hard for me to describe exactly how Mom looked too. Dad wasn’t a Valterian, he looked similar to Shekhinah except he was covered head to toe in silver armor.”

    “Huh, so Arcadian then. I wonder what that means.”

    “That our parents are actually gods pretending to be human—and they never told us?”

    Tiffany’s eyes met mine. “Should we ask them?”

    “Do you think they would actually tell us?”

    “It’s worth a shot. We’d probably get in trouble though. They’d find out we lied again.”

    My head dropped in defeat. I really didn’t want to explain to my parents how we found ourselves entangled in the middle of a cape fight. How I nearly died. I didn’t want to tell them that we managed to stick a virulent god who threatened to kill us in our basement either. If we told them what happened and they weren’t really gods or capes, it wouldn’t have been worth it.

    I sighed. “This is why I wish Kazuya didn’t disappear on us.”

    Tiffany was about to say something else when I pointed at Terra, who was walking up behind her, to get her attention. She turned to look his direction. Terra sat next to Tiffany, quickly dropping his food tray down on the table. Tiffany automatically poked at his plate with a fork and stole one of his chicken nuggets even though she hadn’t touched her own. Terra’s lips quirked upward as he grabbed Tiffany’s unopened milk, ignoring her protests.

    I grinned as Tiffany attempted to feed Terra his stolen food back. The nugget stuck on the end the fork she gently held while she stuck it in Terra’s face. Terra rolled his eyes before eating it.

    “You’re way too stressed out,” Tiffany said, looking at me while she continued to prod the air around Terra’s face with her now empty utensil. Terra swatted her fork away. “That’s probably why you’re having these freaky dreams. You need a new boyfriend,” she glanced at Terra thoughtfully. “Maybe we should share this guy?”

    I scrunched up my face and narrowed my eyes at my identical twin, seriously wondering why in the world she would suggest something like that. I didn’t want to be a walking stereotype.

    “So I’m ‘this guy’ now?” Terra asked amused. He smirked as he saw my expression. “I don’t think Mercy appreciates that idea, Tiff.”

    Tiffany hummed. “You’re right. I’m too selfish to share you anyway,” she jabbed a finger at the bridge of Terra’s nose. “You belong to me,” Tiffany paused, looking Terra in the eye with an enthusiastic grin. “For-ev-er,” she said enunciating each syllable of the word while she snapped her fingers in Terra’s face—obnoxiously snapping her head from one side to the other at the same time.

    Terra rolled his eyes with a smirk but he said nothing.

    “I think I need a break from dating, in general,” I said. I glanced at Terra, who was trying his best to keep Tiffany’s hand at bay, blocking the tenuous pokes of her finger; he had made her cower backward as he threatened her with a barrage of his own playful slaps. “Why are you sitting here instead of with Nathan and the rest of the boys?”

    Terra let out a brief chuckle, removing strands of long hair from his face after he finished batting Tiffany’s hands away. “I’m just tired of watching Tim trying to run game on Ashley. Besides, you guys were sitting here.”

    As soon as Terra had mentioned my ex, I unconsciously looked over at the crowded table at the end of the lunchroom. The one next to the entrance of the outdoor lunch area; a table full of popular underclassmen. Were we usually sat. I caught Timothy sitting next to Ashley. He was smiling and joking around with her, attempting to get more of her attention. A nauseous yet burning feeling of disgust crawled up inside my stomach.

    Tiffany gave me a quick glance before she scowled at Terra. “Don’t talk about that asshole around Ems.”

    I shook my head. “It’s fine, Tiff.”

    “No it’s not,” Tiffany said sharply, causing me to frown. “He’s a fucking rapist and he hurt you.”

    I bit my lip hard, feeling annoyed even though I knew my sister was just worried and looking out for me. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of what happened that night or draw more attention to it. It was something better left forgotten.

    “I have half of a mind to tell somebody what he did. I wonder what Ashley and the rest of girls he flirts with would think of him then.”

    “That would just make things worse,” I said. My fists—currently laid on the table—tightened. “Just—just forget it.”

    Tiffany glared at me and Terra interrupted the two of us before we fell into an argument.

    “Is that why you guys aren’t sitting at the normal table with everyone else?” Terra asked. “I passed by it on the way here. People are talking. Ashley wants to know why you two have been avoiding her all day.”

    I frowned internally at his words. Timothy was only one of the reasons we had avoided sitting with our normal group of friends. The harassment and bullying that the girls had continued to foist upon poor Katherine had started to become unbearable to watch.

    “Then let them talk,” Tiffany said. “Ems still feels a little bothered by the Katherine thing.”

    I made a grimace in distaste, guilt and shame erupted in my chest as I looked down at my lunch tray. Katherine Yanagi used to be a friend of mine, since freshman year. Though Katherine was considered to be nerdy by most, Ashley Hawke had taken a peculiar interest in her and had her join our group. I wasn’t sure why, exactly. Maybe it was because she could help us with our math homework or something. Katherine and I became close, she became more attached to me than Tiffany. She would often wait for me at my locker before homeroom so we could talk about her interest in Starcraft or some of the new books she was reading.

    Our friendship didn’t last. Katherine had a falling out with Rika, my soccer teammate. A girl that could’ve been considered Ashley’s right hand. Ashley soon involved herself and Katherine was unofficially excommunicated from us. Soon after that, the bullying started. Ashley didn’t do anything to Katherine personally, something like that was beneath her. But she still didn’t stop our friends from cruelly torturing the girl.

    Spilling drinks on her clothing. Egging the boys on to knock her books down in the hallways between classes. Stealing her homework assignments.

    Worst of all was the fact that I stood by and did nothing about it. For some reason, after everyone started picking on her, I stopped talking to her. Our conversations had died off. I had let our friendship go. It eroded into dust just like that. For a moment, I was reminded of her teary eyes as she looked at me, pitifully crumpled to the floor with her clothing in a mess. She was pleading and asking why I wouldn’t help her. Asking why I was still friends with Ashley, still apart of her bitch squad.

    Terra’s smile thinned after Tiffany brought up Katherine. He looked away, his eyes scanning the rest of the cafeteria. “Someone needs to talk to Ashley about that. It’s fucked up.”

    “I’ve been telling the boys to knock it off,” Tiffany said. “But they don’t listen unless someone punches them in the face.”

    I mulled the thoughts of Katherine over in my head. I didn’t help her and didn’t talk to her anymore. Why? Was it because I didn’t like her actions upsetting the peace that us girls had among one another other? Because she didn’t stay in her place? Maybe it because I was afraid of Ashley and the power she held. Tiffany had an excuse. I didn’t. She wasn’t friends with Katherine like I was.

    “That’s not the only reason we choose to sit here though,” Tiffany continued. “We wanted to talk about something important. In secret.”

    “So I’ve heard,” Terra replied. “You mean talk about what happened to you guys that night after the party? When I talked to you before first period, you told me you guys were involved in a cape fight.”

    “Oh. My. God. Terra, you wouldn’t believe what happened after you left,” Tiffany said, grabbing Terra’s arm and moving her face closer toward his, getting in his personal space. Terra remained still, allowing his girlfriend to drag his forearm around. “You should have come with us. It was insane! They weren’t just regular capes either. We met freaking gods.”

    “Gods?”

    “Yeah. Two types, they’re called Valterians and Arcadians.”

    Tiffany went into detail, explaining the fight we were plopped into and how we had met Kazuya. What we had learned about the gods: the source of hallowed powers. How ruthless Kazuya was in killing Shekhinah’s subordinates. How I was nearly cut in half.

    Terra took it all in silently. He looked between the both of us with his penetrating gaze. “Well, I’m glad you guys are alright but are you guys seriously hiding someone that powerful in your basement?”

    “Don’t look at me,” Tiffany said. She nudged me with a lazy finger. “Ems’ the one that wanted him around. I think we should’ve let the angel lady take him.”

    Terra narrowed his eyes at her but the corners of his mouth curved upward. “Is that true, Mercy?”

    Sure,” I said, drawing out the word while giving my sister a look. Tiffany was the one that actually grabbed Kazuya from Shekhinah’s hands. She tilted her head and winked, giving me an exaggerated smirk. I faced Terra, ignoring her. “It doesn’t really matter though since he had left last night.”

    “Which is a good thing,” Tiffany said.

    I sighed. “I wish he actually stuck around to answer our questions. I wanted to ask him about that place with the dragon king.”

    Terra shifted in his seat, ever so slightly. Tiffany, whose arm was still touching his, noticed.

    “What’s wrong?” she asked, looking at her boyfriend. “You don’t believe us?”

    “No, I believe you alright,” Terra said, giving Tiffany a cheeky smile. “You couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s too crazy to be a joke, even for you.”

    Tiffany stuck her tongue out at him. “One of these days, if our parents are out late working you should come over and meet fox-boy.”

    “I will if you don’t get caught with him in the basement first,” Terra snarked.

    “Well, if he actually comes back,” I added.

    “Of course he’ll come back,” Tiffany said, flailing her hands in exasperation. “He’s a useless freeloader. A bum. It’s in his nature. Ems, do you actually think will never see that hairy mutt again? Always so stupidly naive and optimistic. What am I going to do with you?”

    I rolled my eyes, smiling despite myself. “Whatever.”

    “Such a mean sister,” Terra chided.

    Stay out of it,” Tiffany ordered, jabbing his cheek with a finger. “This is a conversation between sisters.” She looked him up and down with a scathing look. “You might look the part, but that’s not enough to cut it.”

    Terra frowned. “Don’t touch me.” Tiffany continued to prod Terra’s face at an even more fevered face. Chuckling, Terra finally grabbed her wrist midway through another poke. “Keep playing, and I’mma have to do something to you,” he warned.

    Tiffany bit her lip and narrowed her eyes, giving him a seductive smile. “Do something and you won’t get any pussy for a week.”

    Terra’s lips twitched with barely repressed humor. “You’re grounded for a week.”

    “Just because I say a week doesn’t mean I’m talking about this one.”

    “Of course,” Terra said dryly.

    We ate and talked a little bit longer before Ashley, the perfect sophomore queen herself, strolled up to us. We spoke in hushed voices as she approached, looking up at her silently when she arrived at our table. She had come alone. I glanced at the empty tray she had in hand, her lunch eaten. The only reason Ashley walked by us was to throw her trash away.

    “Sup?” Terra asked.

    “Hey Ash,” Tiffany said in a plain voice, betraying nothing.

    Ashley glanced at us for a moment in silence as if she were trying to feel us out, to figure out where our heads were at. She smiled. “Hello. Any reason why you three didn’t sit with us today?”

    “Not really, just talking about personal stuff,” Tiffany said, giving her a strained smile. A smile she would often give me during the times I genuinely pissed her off.

    “Personal stuff?” Ashley’s gaze overlooked my sister and I, her pretty hazel eyes vacillating between us at a leisured pace. “I heard that you two had gotten into trouble.”

    “Yeah our parents caught us trying to sneak back in the house after the party,” Tiffany said, her lips forming into a small pout. “Of all the days they chose to stay up late, it was that day.”

    “It was a Friday night,” Terra commented.

    Ashley hummed to herself. “It’s unfortunate, but I’ll put in a good word for you so you’ll be in decent standing when you come back to the team. It’s a relief that the two of you don’t start yet.”

    There it is. I kept myself from rolling my eyes as the corners of my lips lifted a little. There she goes again, still rubbing that in.

    “Did you find out we got in trouble from Coach Stephen?” I asked.

    Ashley shook her head. “No. Rika and Nicole told me. Did you directly tell the coach you couldn’t practice?”

    “Yeah. He’s not too happy about it.”

    “Of course he’s not. I’m not either. You both are valuable assets to the team. However, I can’t blame you, I was at that cad’s party as well.”

    Tiffany snickered at Ashley’s choice of words. “Not too fond of Tim, I take it?”

    Ashley’s calm and demure demeanor changed as her slight smile thinned. She tilted her head and shifted her body weight, holding her hips with unrestrained attitude. Timothy must’ve annoyed the crap out of her. “He tries my patience like none other.”

    Tiffany scoffed. “I can believe that.”

    “It seems like everyone knows we got grounded for going to Tim’s party,” I said.

    “You know gossip runs in this school like wildfire,” Ashley said. “Anyway, what exactly happened that night? You had disappeared and when I talked to Nicholas, he said you three left early.”

    “I had gotten sick.”

    “What she really means is that boy that’s been fawning all over you since the start of the semester tried to rape her.”

    Ashley paused. I let out a choked cough, my eyes flashing over to Tiffany—wide with shock. She didn’t have to bring that up now. I slowly turned back to Ashley, only to notice that she was already examining me with a careful glare.

    “Really now?” she asked in a cold voice, her hazel eyes on mine. They almost seemed if they were glowing gold—freezing me in place. “Didn’t you two break up?”

    “Don’t worry about it,” I mumbled, looking downward. I didn’t want her to see it—I didn’t want her to see whatever I felt, the emotional turmoil that raged deep inside me like an endless storm—threatening to swallow me whole.

    “No,” Ashley said with a definitive voice, her eyes still inspecting me. “I’ll handle it. He should know better than to do something so disgusting and despicable to one of my friends.”

    “While you’re at it you should tell Rika and the girls to knock it off. Get them to stop picking on Katherine,” Tiffany said while folding her arms. “It’s making us all look really bad.”

    Ashley looked toward her table. Everyone was clamoring to get up, squeezing out of the seats that were stuck so close together. Students moved toward the garbage cans in droves, throwing out their trash while taking their empty lunch trays to the kitchen. People were cleaning up. Our lunch period had ended.

    “I can agree with that,” Ashley said somewhat bemused. She gave my sister and me one last glance. “Anyway, Mercy. Tiffany. I’ll see you both in history class.” She faced the silverish-gray eyed boy next to my sister. “Terra.”

    Terra leaned back in his seat; he nodded a subtle goodbye without speaking. Ashley left us and we had started to clean up our table so we could make it back to our classes on time.

    After the lunch, the rest of the day had gone by quickly—surprising for a Monday. After we finished our last class of the day with Mr. Tate, Tiffany and I had split up. I went to my locker to retrieve my math textbook while Tiffany went on a small adventure in search of Terra. Packing my things at the locker, I waited a couple of minutes for my sister and her boyfriend to meet up with me.

    They didn’t show. I checked my phone. The buses would leave soon. Tired of waiting, I decided to go look for them. What mess had Terra and Tiffany gotten into now? I almost sent Tiffany a text, but then I decided against it. I knew she wouldn’t answer me, or worse, answer back when it was too late.

    I moved through the crowded hallways, bumping into various students that were busy trying to reach the school exits. Looking for Tiffany and Terra was more of a pain than I thought it would be, with people constantly blocking my path. I fought my way upstream, pushing past everyone; I went the opposite way of oncoming traffic. Soon, I found myself crashing into Diana, a friend of mine I had met through Ashley.

    “Looking for Tiff?” she asked with a slight smile, looking like her usual perceptive self. “I saw her with Terra walking outside. Near the front of the school.”

    What were they doing on opposite side of the building? It was time to go. I thanked Diana quickly before moving on, the hallways of students clearing up as I moved toward the other side of the school, toward the front. Eventually, I found Tiffany and Terra outside, sitting on the steps to the main school entrance.

    “What are you guys doing?” I said after walking out the front door from the inside. “The buses are going to leave.”

    Tiffany stood up and shook her head as she rambled toward me. “Terra got held up by some stupid bullshit. He has after-school detention.”

    I clasped my forehead with a hand and leaned back in irritation, my head facing toward the sky. “Again? Are you serious?”

    “It’s the damn assistant principal,” Tiffany complained, her eyes focused on Terra—who was still sitting on the concrete steps. “I swear he has a hard-on for you or something.”

    Terra snorted at her remark, looking miffed.

    “I’m going to stay with him for a bit. You hurry up and catch the bus,” Tiffany said.

    I frowned. “If Mom and Dad get back early and you’re not home, you’re going to get chewed out.”

    Tiffany glanced at me and giving me a careful smile. She placed a hand on my shoulder.

    “That’ll be my problem, Ems. You don’t need to get dragged down with me all the time.”

    “If you’re sure.”

    “I’ll try come home as soon as I can.”

    I left them both at the steps, going back inside the school. I hoped I could reach the school bus parking lot in time. It helped that I could run through the building now that it was practically empty, except for the janitors and a few faculty members. I was the last person to make to the bus lot but I had arrived just in time. Exactly when the first row of buses had started to leave.

    The bus ride home was quiet as I sat in the front. The back of the bus was crowded, full of people I really didn’t talk to or associate with. It made sense. I was used to staying after school for soccer practice, with my sister. In and out of school we spent most of our time hanging around the girls on the team. Since practice would always end after the late bus had already left, our parents often picked us up unless we were offered a ride home from a teammate.

    The bus ride back took longer than usual as our driver had to navigate around the area of roads that were blocked off by SIGMA and the police. Blocked off from damage caused by the fight between Kazuya, Shekhinah, and her Arcadian warriors. Warning signs along with SIGMA trucks littered the sides of the street while yellow caution tape could be seen everywhere between the roads and houses, obstructing specific areas.

    I had gotten off the bus with a couple students but we quickly parted ways, everyone going to their own places. The bus stop was relatively close to my house. It was only a five-minute walk.

    Arriving home, I used my keys to enter through the side door, next to the garage. Our parent’s cars weren’t in the driveway. They didn’t get back from work yet. After locking the side door from the inside, I briskly climbed the small steps to reach the second door that led inside the house.

    I paused. It was quiet. Too quiet. My gut started to sink after a nagging feeling of caution had overwhelmed me. Something had felt off. I couldn’t quite place it. Energy filled the air. A tense pressure I hadn’t felt since that fateful Friday night after Timothy’s house party. When my sister and I walked back home alone. I shook my head. What was I afraid of? I opened the door and wandered inside. After locking the door I turned around, my eyes widened as I saw a flash of gold.

    Shekhinah, the Arcadian warrior of Kairanna, the one who wielded the blood-colored poisonous lance that was able to wound Kazuya—was standing right in the middle of our living room!

    I shrieked and fell backward, terrified—fearing for my life. Shekhinah, who was busy glancing at the family pictures hanging on the wall, turned to face me. As she took a step closer, her horned helmet evaporated, vanishing from her head into thin air—letting her long hair run free.

    Shekhinah stopped as she saw me scramble away from her; I slid backward on the wooden floor, edging away slowly. She paused for a moment and the shining aura around her beautiful armor had dimmed a little.

    “Peace, child,” she said while studying me calmly. “I only I wish to speak with you.”

    ---

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  14. #14
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Werewolves Tell No Tales

    I hesitated, my mind going blank. “You want to speak with me?” I repeated, the quiet words tumbling out of my mouth, like the electrical impulses that controlled my speech were slow to reach my brain. I was like a device that had short-circuited. I wasn’t sure if she heard me. “Why?”

    Shekhinah paused and regarded me for a second before exhaling. “I assumed that Kazuya would be here recovering after your sister took him from me two nights before. But, I cannot sense him,” Shekhinah glanced around the room, her eyes shifting from me to the entrance of our basement. Could she tell that Kazuya stayed there for the past two days? “Do you know where he is?”

    I didn’t answer her right away; I was still feeling shell-shocked by the fact that she appeared in our house without any warning. With a tense grip, took hold of the knob to the door I had entered the house with and used it to help pull myself up from the floor. I stood up slowly and leaned against the door while attempting to keep balance. If I let go, now, I’d knew I’d fall over from the pressure. I looked Shekhinah in her golden eyes, they seemed cloudy. Lacking the fire and fierceness that they had given off the first time I met her.

    I closed my eyes to distance myself. Shekhinah had asked if I knew where Kazuya was but she wasn’t forceful with her inquiry or demanding that I tell her his location. With a bit of effort, I pushed the thought of my impending death from Shekhinah’s hand out of my mind. Maybe Shekhinah wouldn’t hurt me. She seemed content to ask questions for now.

    I opened my eyes and Shekhinah came back into view. Her expression was unreadable, her lips thin. She hadn’t moved. She was patient, waiting for me to speak.

    I swallowed as I found my voice. “I don’t know where he is,” I paused, glancing down and away from Shekhinah gaze as she remained still—her facial expression solid like
    stone. “He left last night without telling us anything. We didn’t even know he was gone until today.”

    Shekhinah made a sound of clear annoyance. “Damn him,” she said, mostly to herself as she looked away. Shekhinah sighed as she turned her head the direction of the living room window, taking her attention off of me. She was glancing out at the backyard, lost in contemplation. Shekhinah looked back at me, her eyes focused somewhat—as if she were searching my face for something. “Your sister isn’t with you,” she said, speaking like she was stating a simple fact.

    I couldn’t look up to face her. It took every ounce of my resolve to ignore the warning blaring through my head, to keep from running out the garage door and getting the hell away from here. Breath. Calm down. Shekhinah didn’t do anything to me yet. She hadn’t moved at all since we had started talking. I had to calm down and stop freaking out. I had to think. If I didn’t keep myself together mentally, I’d collapse.

    “S-she’s not here right now. She stayed after school.”

    “I see.”

    “Is… Kazuya the only reason you’re here?” I asked, my lips moving against my better judgment. “Why do you want to see him?”

    “I need to speak to him.”

    “So you can kill him and take revenge?” I asked. “For your students?”

    Shekhinah glared at me. “That’s none of your concern.”

    I was silent. My hand tightened on the doorknob as I stood my ground. “It’s been my concern ever since you and Kazuya pulled us into your battle that night. I almost died. If it wasn’t for Kazuya I wouldn’t be here right now. He saved my life.”

    Shekhinah opened her mouth as if she were going to refute me, but after a moment she clamped it shut.

    “He claimed you met us before,” I continued. “It was back when we were young, wasn’t it?” I rubbed my temple with a few fingers while closing my eyes in a painful grimace, visions of the past assaulting my mind. Pulsing through the sides of my skull, like a migraine. Images of Shekhinah with us, Mom, Dad, and Kazuya in that city of gold. “I’ve been having these weird dreams and visions lately. In them, I see my dad as an Arcadian. Mom a
    Valterian. And I see you too, happy with Kazuya.”

    Shekhinah gritted her teeth, her fists tightening as her body stiffened. “Then that vile fox has addled your mind, for you see nothing but lies!” she snapped. “He cannot be trusted. That treacherous fox does nothing but steal, kill, and cause destruction in his wake. He killed the ones important to me, without a second thought!”

    I raised my hands in fear as she stepped closer to me, silently pleading for her to stop and calm down. “Look! I get it. I understand—no—I don’t. I-I can’t possibly understand what you’re going through. Losing the most important people to you,” Memories about my visions, the visions of a younger Tiffany and the seven other children I was close to in dragon king’s castle popped into my mind, piercing my brain—going straight through my skull and shocking me like a bolt of electricity. I winced, wavering for a moment. “I… I don’t think I could bear something like that.”

    Shekhinah offered no response.

    “But,” I said, after swallowing and caching my breath. “If Kazuya was wrong, If you truly hate him so much, why didn’t didn’t you kill him and get rid of us back then? You haven’t even denied what he said yet. That you had come in contact with us before.”

    Shekhinah stared at me.

    “You told us that killing him wouldn’t bring your subordinates back,” I tensed as I saw Shekhinah become furious, the aura of energy surrounding her rising like a torrent of water in the rapids. “Did you really mean that?”

    Shekhinah
    hesitated, the waves of her energy and anger weakening.

    “Shekhinah,” I whispered. “Who are you, really?”

    We were both startled by the sound of the garage door opening from the outside. Metal hinges twisted and moved along worn metal rollers. The sounds from the outside door lasted a few seconds before it stopped. I could hear my mother drive her car inside. My parents were back. Shekhinah must’ve known something was up too, with the way she looked at the door I was standing near.

    Shekhinah inspected me. “If we are fated to meet again,” she declared, “I will tell you everything.”

    Shekhinah gave me a small smile as the aura surrounding her golden armor brightened. I closed my eyes from the glare. I opened them and peered at the place Shekhinah was standing just seconds before. She had vanished.

    I was baffled; my body was stiff, still standing in the same place when my dad opened the door and came into the house while mom followed suit.

    “Hi,” I said, moving out of the way while my parents entered through the door together.

    ‘Hi,” my mom said beaming at me like I was a joy to see.

    “Hey, Mercy. How are you?” my dad asked.

    “Fine.”

    “Anything interesting
    go on at school today?”

    Well, not in school.

    “Not really,” I said.

    For a millisecond I considered whether I should ask Mom and Dad about my visions. To ask if they were gods. I decided against it. I didn’t want to talk to them about what happened that Friday night. Nor did I want to explain Kazuya’s or Shekhinah’s visit to our house. I didn’t want to put that all on the table.

    “Where is your sister?” my mom asked.

    My eyelids shut tight as I anticipated my parent’s outrage. “She’s still at school. She stayed with Terra because he was given detention.”

    Dad’s lips thinned, displeased, and Mom brow furrowed. She folded her arms, furious.

    “What are we going to do with that girl?” Mom growled, expressing herself to my dad.

    Dad put his briefcase down next to the kitchen table. He started to take off his coat. “We’ll discuss that when she comes home,” Dad looked at me. “Did you have anything to do with her staying?”

    “No,” I shook my head. “She chose to stay there. I warned her.”

    Dad examined me for a moment but I didn’t offer anything else. He grabbed his coat from the chair he had placed it on and walked to the hallway closet. Mom did the same.

    “What do you want for dinner, Mercy?” Mom asked in a calmer voice, her annoyance at Tiffany’s disobedience gone. She glanced at me as she hung up her coat. “Steak and pasta or chicken and rice?”

    “We haven’t had rice in a while,” I said.

    “Is that what you want?”

    “Yeah, chicken and rice
    is good.”

    “I bought asparagus Saturday.”

    Mmm. One of the only vegetables I actually liked eating. “Awesome, do you need me to make anything?”

    I recalled my mom talking about making a cornbread dish last weekend. I could do that for her.

    “No. It’s fine.” my mother said. “Don’t you have homework to do?”

    “It wouldn’t take that long.”

    “Homework first,” she ordered.

    I stopped myself from rolling my eyes in protest but my lips lifted around the edges. “Fine.”

    My parents eventually made their way upstairs to take off their work clothes and slip into something more relaxing. I took a moment to sit on the living room couch to decompress a bit. I glanced at the remote that was resting on the small table next to me. I was still banned from watching TV. I pulled my cell phone out of my backpack and began to check it for new text messages. It wouldn’t hurt to check now. Dad would ask for my phone back soon, considering how taking our phones away was a part of our punishment.

    Most of the new texts I had were from friends or teammates. Tiffany hadn’t sent anything. The house door that led to the garage opened with a soft creak, causing me to perk up. Tiffany sneaked inside the house without a sound, she took her time to close the door. After she locked it, she tiptoed through the kitchen—her steps light. She moved closer to me, her shoulders taut with tension as she observed the kitchen and living room with care, attempting to avoid detection. Tiffany nearly jumped out of her skin as she found me sprawled out all over the couch like a homeless moocher. I surprised her. Tiffany actively relaxed as she realized it was me. She exhaled in relief.

    “Hey,” she said.

    “Heya, partner.”

    Tiffany did her usual slight tilt of the head while giving me her ‘are you serious’ look, her hands placed on her hips. I tried my best to feign a look of innocence. Tiffany sniffed before resuming a normal and relaxed posture.

    “Did you cover for me?” Tiffany asked.

    “Nope.”

    “Huh?”

    “I told them the truth.”

    “What?” Tiffany’s mouth dropped open as if she wondered how I could have said such thing. Apparently, I had betrayed her trust. “Why the hell would you do that?”

    I shrugged. “What else was I supposed to do?”

    “Uh—not tell them the truth? You could have said I was in my room or something.”

    “Yeah, but you weren’t and I had no idea when you’d be home. They would have noticed eventually. If you’d come home a few seconds later, Dad would be sitting here watching TV and Mom would be in the kitchen. I told you it would be bad news if they got home early. You said you could handle it.”

    “Tiffany,” Mom called from upstairs before my sister could respond. “Mercy, is your sister home? Tell her to come upstairs.”

    Tiffany grimaced. I empathized with my sister, my stomach coiling into a knot of anxiety, knowing that she would get a stern talking-to. We couldn’t fool Mom. Whenever we found ourselves in the act of doing something we knew when shouldn’t be doing, our mom’s sense of hearing always seemed uncanny.

    “Pray for me,” Tiffany said quietly, as she took a seat on my lap—causing me to let out a chocked grunt of surprise. She buried her head into my shoulder. My arms traveled around her back, holding her in a light embrace so she wouldn’t fall off of me. She looked up at me, then she tilted her head back to view my face better. “On second thought,” she said, with her hands touching the back of the couch—my head in between the middle of her reaching arms, “Don’t do that. I can’t even trust you to cover for me right. If you pray to those gods you’ve been seeing in those dreams of yours, I’d probably die faster.”

    My eyes narrowed as I gave her a sardonic smile. “Do you prefer that or prefer having Mom and Dad kill you? Trying to merge yourself with me isn’t going to work,” I snarked, pondering whether I should push Tiffany off my lap.

    “Tiffany!” Mother called, louder.

    Tiffany cursed and rolled her eyes; she let go of me. As she stood up, I spoke.

    “Sorry.”

    “Don’t be. I should have been back earlier.”

    I glanced toward some of the kitchen windows. “Yeah. But something came up. Before the ‘rents came back.”

    “What happened?”

    I looked back at Tiffany who seemed intent on waiting for me to explain. Doing that would take a while and keeping her here would only make our mom angrier. Making things worse for both of us.

    “Go talk to Mom. I’ll tell you later.”

    Tiffany frowned but she didn’t complain. She turned away from me and made her way upstairs to our parent’s room to face the music. It sucked that she had to get yelled at, but at least she wasn’t grounded for another week. Missing two weeks of practice may have gotten her kicked off the soccer team. After dinner, I told her about Shekhinah’s abrupt appearance in our house. Tiffany was as freaked out about it as I was, but she also was averse to telling our mom and dad. Shekhinah was a god who could level our house with the wave of a hand and she could appear in the middle of home whenever she felt like it. I wasn’t so sure about keeping that fact a secret from our parents. Nevertheless, the rest of our night was peaceful enough.

    oOo

    The next day at school was pretty normal. As normal as you could get at Franklin High, at least. Homeroom had just finished and I was the second to last person to leave class as I was late in
    packing up my books. Nathan Blackwood approached me, his visage careful and patient. We’d often walk to second-period together since we were in the same class. He was a good friend. Someone I enjoyed talking to when I had the chance.

    Terra, who was unironically Nathan’s best friend, had left homeroom before us for some reason. Normally he would walk with us to Algebra II even though his second class was on the opposite side of the building. Terra could care less if he was late his Spanish class. I was pretty sure he liked it but his Spanish teacher, Ms. Lopez, had a soft spot for him—something that he was sure to take advantage of. I wondered why he didn’t walk with us today. Maybe Ms. Lopez actually threatened him with detention for once.

    “Finished your Algebra II homework?” Nathan asked.

    I gave him a warm smile before standing up, my backpack in hand. “Mm-hmm. Finally! Man, he gives way to much homework. What’s the point of learning all this stuff? Functions? Graphing linear equations? We’re not even gonna use this crap real life.”

    “Just wait until we get into pre-cal.”

    I leaned my head back in aggravation, over-exaggerating the motion a little. “Oh my gosh, don’t even talk to me about that. I don’t know if I’m gonna survive this.”

    Nathan smirked. “Mr. Nelson does give a lot of homework.”

    “Too much. And I still have to start working on that essay Ms. Frazzle gave us.”

    Nathan and I continued to talk as we exited the classroom. We said goodbye to Ms. Frazzle, our English and homeroom teacher, who was standing by the door the way out. She was preoccupied with observing people as they passed through the hallway, making sure students didn’t violate the dress code, no doubt. Or maybe she was checking that her students came to class on time. As we left Ms. Frazzle’s class, some of her second-period students trickled into the English classroom. It would be full within ten minutes or so.

    “So…” Nathan said as we traversed through the crowded halls. “Have you seen Katherine around? I don’t think she was in first-period today.”

    I inhaled deeply, stifling a sigh. “No, I don’t think she was.”

    “Hmm. I thought I saw her earlier. Isn’t your locker close to her’s?”

    A familiar undercurrent of irritation started to course through my veins, entering the center of my body. It made me feel like I was burning from the inside out. How long would he continue to bring up Katherine in our conversations? If Nathan cared about Katherine so much he could go find her by himself. He didn’t need me for that.

    “I don’t really talk to her anymore. You know that.”

    “Yeah, I know that,” Nathan said, his gaze cautious. “I don’t know why, though.”

    “I just don’t. Don’t be annoying. You’re always so nosy.”

    “My bad. I wanted to see her so I could find out if she’s available for tutoring today.”

    I glanced at Nathan with renewed interest. “She’s a part of the tutoring center?”

    “Nah. Way too skittish for that. You know how she is. Katherine isn’t a people person.”

    I huffed. “Yeah,” I paused before facing Nathan’s direction. “I’m surprised she’s helping you.”

    Nathan chuckled. “Yup, me too. I didn’t expect her to agree but I knew she was smart so I was like fuck it, what’s the harm in asking? It’s cool. I think she could use someone to talk to considering everything that’s been happening to her lately.” Nathan turned to me so he could analyze my reaction to his words.

    That nasty feeling in my stomach returned and I looked away. “What class is she helping you with?”

    “Physics.”

    “Ugh. That sounds rough,” I said. “Wait. Do you have the new physics teacher?”

    “Mr. Thompson? Yeah. He’s cool.”

    “I heard he was pretty attractive,” I murmured to myself, causing Nathan to shake his head. “How’s that working out for you?”

    “Honestly, I’m in way over my head. Without Katherine, I wouldn’t be able to survive in that class. I’d die. Like literally die. That’s how hard that shit is. She’s saving my life right now. ”

    “Why did you take such a hard requirement?”

    “Eh,” Nathan shrugged. “Wanted to do something I haven’t learned about before. Oh, that reminds me. I also wanted to invite Katherine to the AMCVG after school.”

    “Ah, that?” I asked. The anime, manga, comic book, video game, and movie club. A small student-created organization that Nathan was a proud member of. I had learned from Nathan that the AMCVG would at least meet once a week to play games, watch anime, or discuss other various hobbies for us nerdy folk. It seemed intriguing enough. I never really had the time to join, being a part of the soccer team and all.

    “Yes, that,” Nathan said giving me a smirk. “Do you actually wanna join now that you have been banished from fields of elite foot swinging warriors?”

    I looked at Nathan like he had grown a second head. “No. Don’t do that. Please don’t. Christ, you’re such a dork.”

    “Don’t hate, baby-girl,” he said, not caring in about my judgment in the least. “You know I’m irresistible.”

    “Yeah—okay, super-fly,” I said while tapping him on the shoulder, feigning
    pity. Though he would sometimes act dorky, Nathan was always amusing when he attempted to make me laugh. “You know I can’t stay after school. My parents banned me and Tiff from all extracurriculars this week. Didn’t Terra tell you?”

    “Yup,” Nathan said, not missing a beat. “It’s a real shame. You could have been one of us, you know. With us nerds, your true people.”

    I snorted at that.

    “You know that we are your true calling,” Nathan said. “When you’re done abusing people’s balls with your feet, realize that we will always welcome you with open arms. Or open legs if you prefer.”

    I glared at him. It wasn’t a serious glare, but it wasn’t a light one either.

    Nathan laughed. “Alright, I’ll stop.”

    I sighed. “Thank you.”

    “It really sucks though, you’d love it,” Nathan said. “Isn’t that why you’re taking Japanese—to read all that untranslated manga you look at?”

    I hummed while thinking about the oral presentation I had to give in my Japanese II class. “I guess that was the original reason.”

    Our talking died down. We walked in comfortable silence. Normally, having dead spaces in conversation with a boy I wasn’t super close to would make me anxious, but I felt relaxed around Nathan. He was cool like that. I waved in greeting to a couple of other classmates that walked by. We would arrive at our second class soon.

    “You should talk to Katherine,” Nathan said at once. “You should see how she looks at you sometimes in English.”

    Like I hadn’t noticed?

    “Look. I’m not her friend. I don’t talk to her. Stop bringing it up.”

    “What are you even worried about?” Nathan countered. “None of the other girls that hang around Ashley are in our English class.”

    “Diana is,” I said, “but it’s not like she would
    tell on me.”

    “Ms. Frazzle’s class is like a safe haven,” Nathan said.

    “True. But even if everyone was in our English class, Ms. Frazzle wouldn’t let them get away with bullying Katherine.”

    “Mm-hmm,” Nathan said. “So what’s the problem? Why don’t you want to talk to Katherine? I thought she was your best friend.”

    “Best friend? That’s kinda stretching it.”

    “To her you were.”

    I closed my eyes with a frown. “Of course, I was.” I must have been the only girl she talked to. I looked away from Nathan’s brown eyes, feeling uneasy about his forcefulness. “I feel a little guilty about it.”

    “About what? You don’t pick on her.”

    “That’s not it. I cut her off so I wouldn’t have any problems with the rest of the girls.” I bit my lip. “I can’t face her now.”

    “Honestly, I don’t think Ashley really cares if you talk to her or not. I’m sure Katherine would understand why you stopped talking to her if you explained yourself, how bad you feel about hurting her.”

    “Hmm, yeah,” I said, giving Nathan a casual response. “But Ashley isn’t the person I’m worried about.”

    “No. You’re worried about Rika.”

    I shrugged, not saying anything else. Rika could be hard to deal with but I didn’t feel like talking to Nathan about her right now.

    After a few more steps, we entered our large Algebra II classroom. Nathan and I talked a little bit more before taking our assigned seats. The classroom filled up within a few minutes; the class quieted down as Mr. Nelson walked to the board and asked for the previous night’s homework. I pulled out a binder from my bag and retrieved the homework assignment I had put the finishing touches on in homeroom before our teacher began his lesson. I also took out a spiral notebook and two mechanical pencils, readying myself for an extensive hour of notetaking. After thirty minutes or so of mindless copying from the board, I excused myself from class so I could go use the restroom. Only a few more minutes before lunch, but I was getting tired of working on math and I didn’t feel like holding it in anymore.

    I walked to the restroom at the end of the hallway but before I made it halfway there, something caught my eye. I saw Terra on the stairway adjacent to the restroom, talking to a hooded figure—the person was wearing a dark full-body cloak. Huh. That was different. Noticing my approach, Terra nodded at his hooded acquaintance before leaving the step he was perched upon and turning the corner. The hooded figure went after him.

    Hmm.

    Instead of using the restroom I followed them. I wasn’t sure why Terra urged the hooded figure to follow him after he noticed me. Suspicious. Did he not think I’d pursue him? I made my way around the corner. I blinked. They were gone. The wide corridor was empty like they weren’t even there. Whatever Terra was up to, he didn’t want me knowing about it.

    Well, I was going to find out about it now. I spent some time ambling around the empty corridors, looking any hint of Terra or the cloaked person he was talking to. I hoped that wouldn’t come across any teachers. They’d probably want to know why I was strolling around the school like I had nothing better to do instead of being in class.

    Where could they have gone? I considered the some of the places around the school Terra liked to go when he wanted to hang out with people in secret. Ah. The rooftop. Students were forbidden being on the school roof but that wouldn’t stop Terra from bringing people up there when he felt like it. I remembered how Tiffany and I had chilled with him there toward the end of last year when most teachers started to become lax with attendance. When school was almost over and there was nothing to do in class. I was pretty sure Terra and Tiffany had used that place to mess around more times than that though. Terra was notorious for skipping classes he didn’t like and he’d sometimes he would bring Tiffany with him when he did.

    I was moving fast, so it didn’t take me long to reach the third floor. I looked both ways in next hallway to make sure the coast was clear before making a quick stride to the final staircase. I was careful as I climbed the steps, feeling a bit nervous. If Terra had gone to the roof to get away from me, I wonder how he would react once he found out that I followed him. I opened the door at the end of the staircase with a gentle twist, the golden doorknob making the sound of a sharp click. A slight squeak caressed my ears as I pulled, opening the door wide. I paused for a moment as I looked at the emptiness of the school roof. This was just the front of the roof, what you could see from the doorway entrance; I needed to check the back area as well.

    I trod the side of the roof entrance with care, sticking to the wall before glancing around the edge to view the other side of the rooftop. There they were—Terra and the mysterious hooded figure, who was standing right in front of him. There was a substantial height difference between the two of them. The hooded figure was huge. Much taller than Terra. Had to be over six feet.

    Terra moved, snapping his head around to look my direction. I was fortunate; I was able to hide behind the wall before he saw me. I waited before resuming my previous position at the edge of doorway area. I peeked around the corner of the wall as the hooded figure started to talk.

    “It’s been a while,” The hooded man said. His voice sounded gruff, almost feral.

    “It has been,” Terra agreed.

    Who in the world was Terra talking to? I covered my mouth with a hand to stop from crying out in shock as the cloaked man removed his hood with clawed and furred hands, revealing the face of a wolf. The man was a werewolf! He had long wolf-like ears attached to the sides of his head and harsh blue eyes as dark as the ocean depths. Razor-sharp teeth extruding from his maw. His cool gray fur, striking.

    “How long will it take you to complete your mission?” the werewolf growled.

    “Oris, my man,” Terra said, calm like he was speaking to an old friend, “Relax.”

    Oris grunted. “Relaxation is the only thing you’re good at. Should I tell Trinity that you’re slacking?”

    Terra paused. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking—his back was turned to me and there was a considerable distance between me and the two of them.

    “It’s unusual to see you out in the open like this, Oris,” Terra said, ignoring Oris’s previous question. “Not really befitting of an assassin.”

    A what?

    A low growl rumbled in Oris’s throat. “I won’t be out for long. I’m just here to give you a little kick in the ass.”

    Terra made a sound of disapproval before folding his arms. “You gonna fight me? Here?”

    “No. Just give you a warning. Get yourself in gear,” Oris commanded. “Kill Nathan Blackwood, or I’ll do it for you.”

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; August 10th, 2018 at 05:17 AM.

  15. #15
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Dec 2014
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    Schoolyard Rumble

    What?

    My eyes widened as Oris made his demand. He wanted Terra to kill Nathan? Why?

    “Look,” Terra said at once. “I will handle Nathan Blackwood myself. On my own time.”

    The edges of Oris’s maw curled upward into a ferocious grin. “Then you best handle it quickly. If it’s left up to me, things will get a little messy. Either way, you wouldn’t be able to stay here anymore.”

    “If you touch him, I’ll kill you,” Terra said, his voice flat. “I don’t need you ruining things for me here.”

    Oris chuckled at that. “You’re already compromised. Your cover has been blown.” Oris made a pointed glance my direction—causing me to quickly hide behind the wall, obscuring my face from view. He snorted. “But you already know that, don’t you?”

    I didn’t hear a response from Terra. I suspected that Terra may have gotten a glimpse of me when I first took a peek from behind the door entrance after I spent all that time tailing them. But was it possible that they knew I was following them all along? Oris seemed to be a werewolf. From what I knew about them from fiction and popular culture it was plausible that he had enhanced senses of some sort.

    It was quiet. I slowly let my back slide down the wall until my bottom touched the cool solid rooftop. My eyes were sealed tight as I focused on calming myself. Hoping that if they couldn’t hear me breathing really hard, they would forget all about me and think that seeing me was a figment of their imagination.

    “Well?” Oris asked.

    “Well, what?”

    Another pregnant pause.

    “That girl has followed us all the way up here. Even when you had given your word, that you knew what you were doing.”

    “Damn it, Oris,” Terra hissed. “Shit happens. I didn’t expect her to chase us all over the freaking school building.”

    “That’s apparent.”

    “She has nothing to do with this.”

    “She’s a liability,” Oris growled.

    “I know.”

    My hands curled up into tight fists. Breath in… and out. Breath in… and out. I needed to move. I couldn’t wait here like a sitting duck. The door entrance was the only way the Terra and Oris could leave the school roof. It wouldn’t do to be naive and hope that they would let me go.

    “Then if you know,” Oris began, “prove yourself. Kill her.”

    My body stiffened as my blood turned to ice. Terra didn’t respond.

    “Why are you hesitating?” Oris demanded.

    “Oris, I thought I just told you I’ll handle it on my own time,” Terra said, his voice flat. “Mercy, come out,” he called, louder than before. "We know you’re there.”

    I jumped up and ran through the door with a start, refusing to look back. I could hear Terra say something else; I think he was attempting to call me back, but I wouldn’t stop. Not when there was a risk that he would kill me.

    What should I do? What should I do?

    My brain was frantic, scrambling for any idea on how to get out of this situation. Should I tell someone? Go to a teacher or the principal? Or maybe I should just call the police? I had to decide quickly before Terra and his werewolf friend caught up with me.

    As I reached the first floor I paused and looked around the empty hallway. “I need to find Nathan… and my sister,” I murmured. That’s right, they were originally after Nathan and there was no telling whether they would go after him or me first, especially if I managed to hide and make myself disappear. If I could find him, I could keep him out of danger. As for Tiffany, I need to warn her about Terra. Anyone else that was close to me could be a target for them now.

    It didn’t take long to get to my Algebra II class after I had reached the first floor. Oris and Terra still didn’t catch up to me, causing me to wonder if they bothered to give chase at all. I wasn’t complaining. I looked around. The classroom was vacant except for pile small belongings and backpacks that littered the floor between everyone’s desks. Our lunch period had started.

    Turning heel, I made my way to the cafeteria. Entering into the crowded lunchroom I was swirled by a couple of friends. Brittany, Lorie, and a few other of my other classmates pulled me over toward our usual lunch table. Tiffany perked up as she saw us approach, waving us over. I sat down—squeezing in the middle seat, between her and my friend Nicholas. I gave him a brief hello before turning to face my sister.

    “What happened?” Tiffany asked. “I was looking all over for you.”

    I frowned. “Have you seen Nathan or Terra?”

    Tiffany paused, the edges of her lips curling downward. Hand under her chin, she looked away—seeming thoughtful. She shook her head before returning her eyes to me. “Mm-mm,” she murmured, answering my question. ” I wanted to wait for Terra after he got out of Spanish—so we could come here together, but by the time I got there someone told me he already dipped.”

    “Hmm.”

    Tiffany gave me an odd look. “What’s wrong? Didn’t Nathan leave class with you?”

    I glanced at her side-eyed, focusing majority of my attention on the other people sitting at the table. Most of the guys weren’t paying attention to us and girls were off in their own conversations. Tonya and Nicole were busy ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ as Brittany recounted information about some classroom drama they all took part in before lunch while Lorie spent most her time fawning all over Timothy and Ashley as they looked over the group with amusement. Thank goodness, we sat near the end of the table instead of the middle.

    I couldn’t stand to look straight at Timothy, still acting all chummy with our oh-so-perfect blonde leader. Still sitting next to her and smiling like he didn’t do anything to me that night. I glanced at my sister. “Something’s wrong,” I said while leaning next to my sister’s ear; my voice almost a whisper. “Terra’s after Nathan.”

    “What?” Tiffany asked, a look of confusion on her face. “What do you mean?”

    “I mean like he’s after-after him. A freaking hallowed, a freaking werewolf mosied his way on in here and told him to kill Nathan.”

    “You’re yanking my chain here.”

    “I saw it happen. I heard them talking about it. On the school roof.”

    Tiffany pursed her lips, nonplussed.

    “We need to do something.” I exhaled and tried to keep myself calm. “I barely got away as it is. They realized I was there. That I had followed them. Terra called out to me but I ran away. That werewolf guy… Terra called him Oris. He wanted Terra to kill me.”

    Tiffany’s lips thinned, while she looked at me. Her gaze was sharp. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

    I gave a quick shrug. “No. But it still happened.” I thought back to the time Terra got involved with an unknown gang a few weeks back. “Do you remember the time Terra got kidnapped?”

    “You think that has something to do with this? Terra said they had got the wrong guy. That’s why he wasn’t hurt as much he could’ve been. Thank god.”

    “What else could it be?”

    Tiffany scrunched her lips. “He didn’t really say whether capes were involved or not.”

    “You didn’t think to ask him?”

    “That wasn’t my first thought when he snuck through my window half beat to death, looking for help. No.”

    Before I could respond further, a food tray hit the table startling us out of our private conversation. I looked past my sister, feeling a bit surprised. Nathan was here. He took a seat beside Tiffany and then dove into the plate, taking a bite his wide pizza slice.

    “What are you two whispering about?” he asked with his mouth full. He nodded toward Nicholas in greeting before returning his attention to us.

    “Where have you been?” I asked.

    “Worried about me?” Nathan asked in a teasing voice, taking another bite of his pizza. When I didn’t speak, he put his
    food down and faced us properly. “I was wondering where you went off to since you weren’t there when Mr. Nelson let us out of class. Anyway, I was looking for my wallet. Thought I lost it so I went to check my locker. When I didn’t see it in there, I almost freaked out until I realized I had it with me in my back pocket the whole time,” he smiled at us, sheepish. “And then… I went to the restroom and took a leak. Answer your question?”

    My sister and I glanced at each other.

    “Hey, now! I don’t appreciate that look,” Nathan said.

    Tiffany snorted. But I felt like humoring him.

    “What look?” I asked.

    “When you both give each other the ‘he’s stupid’ look. I know it when I see it. I’m an expert at reading people.”

    “Or maybe you’re just stupid,” Tiffany said, her voice flat.

    Nathan sighed. “Ah, my heart.” Nathan placed his hand upon his chest. “That hurts, Tiffany. Right here.”

    I giggled.

    “You’ll be okay, you’re a big boy,” Tiffany said with a smirk. “I believe in you.”

    “I thought we had a connection,” Nathan complained.

    “Just stop.”

    “No,” Nathan said, pretending to be woeful. “I guess Terra is the only one for you.”

    “Speaking of Terra,” I said, thinking about why I was so worried for Nathan. “Have you see him?”

    “Nah,” Nathan said. “He didn’t come with you guys?”

    Tiffany placed a hand on top of mine. “Hey, I’ll ask Terra about it. Alright? It’s probably a misunderstanding.”

    I glanced at her, my gut feeling uneasy. “It’s dangerous.”

    “What’s dangerous?” Nathan asked.

    Tiffany waved him off. “It’s nothing—relationship stuff.”

    “Oh man, don’t tell me you guys broke up,” Nathan said.

    Tiffany laughed. “Nah, nothing like that. Just need a little talk.”

    Oh shit. Now I’m more worried.”

    Tiffany and I both chuckled at that one.

    “You should be,” Tiffany said.

    Nathan continued to talk with us until lunch period finished, however, we didn’t bring up the thing regarding Terra again. He didn’t show up but considering how a werewolf wasn’t busy rampaging through our cafeteria, I figured everything was okay for the time being. Well, until I had to go to Japanese II.

    After getting my bags from Algebra II, I made my way to the third class for the day. Without really thinking, I picked the hallway that went toward my locker. It was closer and a faster way to get to class compared to some other routes but I’d often avoid it. Considering that my locker was adjacent to Katherine’s.

    As I walked further in the corridor, I could see a familiar group of girls huddled around a particular locker. Katherine’s. They surrounded her talking to each other in hushed voices, pretending to mind their own business. But I knew better. They were doing their usual routine of saying mean things to her without actually saying it to her face.

    It was so they couldn’t be accused of bullying. To make it hard for Katherine if she went a teacher. They could just claim they were having regular conversations and that Katherine took something they said personally by mistake. The teachers would always take the word of their favorite students over the quiet girl that sat in the corner of the class alone, scrunched over with her head down. My stomach curled.

    I could hear their viperous gossip as I walked by.

    “I can’t believe we have such an ugly girl in this school,” Lorie said to Nicole while sneaking glances at Katherine with a nasty smile.

    “She looks like a guy,” another girl
    crowed.

    “Isn’t that like offensive to like most of the guys in the school?” a short girl with red hair asked.

    “Maybe not all of them,” Brittany said in a loud whisper. “But most of them.”

    “That girl needs a lot a makeup if she wanted to look decent,” Diana murmured.

    “Yeah,”
    Tonya agreed. “But she’d need so much she’d end up looking like a clown.”

    “That would be an improvement.”

    The posse of girls giggled and laughed among themselves all while giving Katherine condescending looks of disgust. Katherine didn’t say anything but it was bothering her. I could tell as she fumbled with getting books out of her locker. It was weighing her down.

    “Can’t believe Ashley let a girl like Katherine hang out with us.”

    “She just felt sorry for her.”

    “And then for her to piss Ashely off after all that. What a dumbfuck. I thought Asian girls were supposed to be smart.”

    “Hey, I resent that,” Rika said to the girl facing her left. “Katherine is too much of a failure to be lumped in with us.”

    I kept my head forward, pretending not to pay attention. I didn’t want to be noticed by the girls and brought into it. I felt a hand clasp my shoulder in a soft grip. So much for that.

    “Mercy, where are you off to? ” Rika asked louder than before, causing the other girls to notice I was there. “Wait for me.”

    I looked at Katherine who was still facing the lockers before giving Rika a hesitant nod. Rika gave me a smile before stepping in stride with me. I turned back to give Katherine and the girls one lace glance. I flinched before turning around as Katherine’s dark eyes had met mine. She was angry, a definitive scowl on her face as she clenched her fists. The look she gave me and Rika could only be described as pure hatred. I deserved every bit of it.

    “I saw that,” Rika said as we walked toward class. “That look the twerp gave you.”

    I glanced up at Rika to look at her face. Being five foot eleven, she was quite tall for a girl. Since almost everyone we knew had to look up to her, she was used to looking down on people in a physical and mental way.

    “What’s your deal with her anyway?” I asked, feeling irritated. “They only bother her because of you. You may have got them to believe that Ashley and Katherine had a fight but I know the truth. You the one that had a problem with Katherine, not her.”

    “It’s none of your business,” Rika hissed, blowing me off. “You still want to be her friend? You don’t talk to her anymore.”

    I frowned and turned away. She had me there. Glancing toward our class, I could see two figures hanging back away from the other students in the in the hallway. Toward the end. They looked familiar. I squinted at them for a minute. It was Terra and Nathan, talking.

    I started to walk toward them at an even pace, but Rika didn’t follow. “Hey,” Rika called, “make sure you're back before class starts. I’m not doing that presentation on my own.”

    I waved back to her, shouting some gibberish about not worrying as Nathan and Terra had turned the corner. I wouldn’t let Terra get away from me. Not this time. I should’ve told someone instead of following them. I had no idea if Terra had powers or not. If Oris was waiting for Terra to arrive with his target. But I didn’t care. I pushed forward, following them as with as quietly as I could. Keeping my distance.

    They had gone to the gym. It didn’t seem like anyone was in there. No classes were taking place. There were cameras, small ones attached to the ceiling, but even so, if they wanted to leave the school without quick interference from faculty, this was the place and time to do it. I waited for them to exit the building from the double doors before following.

    Stepping outside, I paused feeling the dry air against my face. Nathan and Terra were walking down the hill, closer to the football practice fields. I pursued them. Terra and Nathan had stopped walking once they had reached the fence of one of the practice fields. They leaned on the fence facing each other while standing on the gravel track that surrounded range. I stood back a little bit, hiding behind some of the trees.

    Peeking around, I watched in silence as Nathan and Terra conversed in hushed voices. What was Terra telling him?

    “You’ve been a good friend,” Terra said at once, so loud that his voice echoed across the field. He didn’t need to do that, he was right next to him. Did Terra notice me again? He was probably speaking loudly for my own benefit. My body stiffened; I felt nervous.

    “What are you on about?” Nathan asked, sounding suspicious. “You’ve been acting weird all day.”

    Terra sighed and looked at the trees on the opposite side of the clearing. “I guess you’re right.”

    “Look, man—if you got something to say, say it. I gotta go. I can’t be skipping class, bro.”

    “You won’t have to worry about that any longer.”

    “Wha—”

    Nathan cut himself off and ducked, avoiding a swift hook from Terra’s fist. Nathan jumped backward putting up his hands to defend himself. “What the hell, man?” Nathan’s face twisted from the expression of sudden shock to anger. “What the fuck is your problem?”

    Terra gave Nathan a blank look, his face betraying nothing—like he didn’t just try to take his best friend’s head off without warning. Terra blurred, moving faster than I could see as he punched Nathan straight in the gut.

    Nathan coughed and cried out in surprise as he dropped to the floor, unable to react to Terra’s quickness. Before Nathan could get up Terra kicked him and implanted his foot on Nathan’s chest to hold him in place.

    “It’s nothing personal,” Terra said while pressing his foot down.

    Nathan yelled something incoherent before tossing Terra’s foot off him. Nathan took off from the ground, his arms wrapping around Terra’s waist and thighs as he attempted to throw Terra to the ground. With a great heave, Nathan forced Terra to the floor. He tried to get on top of Terra, layering him with quick punches but Terra wasn’t having it. The two boys found themselves in a tight wrestling match; both trying to impose their will on each other. Terra maneuvered himself until he was back on top of their tussle with his arm wrapped around Nathan’s neck. He was trying to choke him out.

    I ran toward them without thinking, aiming to stop Terra before things got worse. I grabbed Terra from behind, trying to pull him off of Nathan. Damn. Terra was a lot stronger than he looked. He didn’t budge an inch.

    “Stop it, Terra!” I screamed. “Stop this now!”

    Terra attempted to shrug me off but I held on. “…Stay out of this,” he growled out. His elbow connected with my chest and I fell back on the gravel. It didn’t really hurt. I was like I didn’t even feel it. Must have been the adrenaline. Nathan yelled something else over their struggle, having a few choice words for Terra after he hit me.

    Terra froze. An aura of purple energy covered his body holding him in place. Still angry, Nathan readied himself to take another swing at Terra, but then he vanished in a flash of purple light.

    A hooded figure wearing purple robes with golden ornaments and gems draped around its clothing appeared in midair. A woman. She floated from the sky, holding Nathan in a secure bridal carry. At a slow speed, the hooded woman landed right in front of Terra who was still frozen in place. Terra didn’t say
    anything, if he even could, but seeing him up close I could tell that he was afraid. I was too, as realized who the woman in front of us was. She pulled down her hood after letting Nathan stand on his two feet.

    “Get out of here,” I muttered as I stared at our English teacher in shock. Her face was uncovered; she wasn’t wearing a mask. Her usual brown eyes were now swirling with waves of violet. Her pupils were slits, reminding me of Kazuya. Her ears were longer than before, elvish. Ms. Frazzle looked different but I could still tell it was her. Her hairstyle was still the same. “Ms. Frazzle…?”

    Ms. Frazzle’s lips quirked upward. “Yes… and no.” With a wave of her hand, the aura that was kept Terra from moving was released. Terra exhaled in relief, but he didn’t stand. He remained in a crouched position not daring to take his eyes off our teacher.

    “You’re a cape?” I asked her.

    Ms. Frazzle gave a light shrug. “I guess I could be considered one. That term sounds so lazy and banal
    though. What about hallowed that don’t wear capes?”

    Terra snorted. I was too flabbergasted to say anything.

    Ms. Frazzle’s brow furrowed as she looked at Terra, disappointed. “You’ve been a naughty boy, Terra,” she said.

    “… Are you sure this is a good idea?” Nathan asked quietly, prompting Ms. Frazzle to glance his way.

    He knew our English teacher had powers?

    “It’s fine, Nathan. With the
    way things were going the truth was going to come out eventually. Besides, I had to protect my precious students from getting hurt.”

    “What are you even talking about?” Nathan asked, pissed off. He still seemed angry at Terra. “You didn’t need to reveal your powers to stop us from fighting.” He waved an arm toward us. “They could tell everyone. The whole school would know your secret identity by the end of the next class.”

    Ms. Frazzle and Terra had a brief stare-down before she gave me a glance. She looked back at Nathan. “They could. But they won’t.”

    Before we could ask her what she meant, a wave of energy burst from the trees, from the area I was hiding before. “No, they will not,” a regal voice called. A recognizable voice. A girl in golden armor with a sword in hand approached us on the gravel track. I could see Tiffany running behind her at a frantic pace, trying to keep up. It was Ashley.

    Like Ms. Frazzle, Ashley also looked different. Changed. A pair of dragon-like horns covered in jewelry sprouted from the top of her head. A long reptilian tail
    her reptilian tailwhipped through the air as it passed by me, she didn't spare me a glance as she moved me out of the way. Ashley glared at the Terra, who was still crouched on the gravel track, with glowing eyes. She didn’t care about me, Nathan, or Ms. Frazzle. Her only focus was Terra.

    She raised her broadsword in a fluid motion pointing it at Terra’s neck. Terra stiffened like he wanted to move, but he didn’t back away.

    “What is the meaning of this?” Ashley hissed.


    ---


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    Last edited by Fluxx; March 5th, 2018 at 11:21 PM.
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  16. #16
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    In Plain Sight

    “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t lop off your head,” Ashley said, commanding Terra, her voice harsh as she attempted to prick his neck.

    I wanted to yell at her, to make her stop—but my voice was stuck; it was caught in my throat.

    “Wait—hold on!” Ms. Frazzle said at once, grabbing Ashley by the arm to stop the movement of her blade. “Let’s not be hasty. It’s not good to threaten your friends like this.”

    Ashley studied Ms. Frazzle with the corner of her eye, her golden glare vicious, no less threatening than when she faced Terra. “You… dare?”

    Ms. Frazzle, gaze remained impassive as she refused to let go. “Calm down.”

    Ashley’s face morphed from an expression of irritation with a tight-lipped frown to a look of turbulent animosity. Golden energy started to swarm around her body. “Who are you to order me around, weakling?”

    Ms. Frazzle let go of Ashley’s arm, taking a step back. Her lips tightened as she looked at Ashley shielded by her golden aura of energy. I could have sworn that Ms. Frazzle was shaking out of fear.

    “I’ve had it up to here with you, serpent-elf,” Ashley said in annoyance, spitting out the words as she spoke. “I was merciful until now since your aid may have been useful. But if you’ve decided to stand in my way, I’ll destroy you. You had your warning. Know your place.”

    Both Ashley and Ms. Frazzle stared at each other as Ashley’s aura continued to charge with that strong energy. They were sizing each other up, but they didn’t attack one another.

    “I don’t think it would be wise to start a fight here,” Ms. Frazzle said, after a moment.

    Ashley’s eyes widened like Ms. Frazzle had slapped her. “Oh—that confident, are we?” Ashley stuck her golden sword into the ground and rested her hands on the pommel, her violent golden-brown tail waving through the air. The ground around her started to contort as long columns of silver blades extruded from it like spikes—the slow-moving swords almost enclosing her in a barrier of metal. “Such a blatant show of disrespect cannot go unpunished. I have decided. I will kill you now.”

    “Goddess, please,” Ms. Frazzle pleaded, raising her hands in protest. “I’m not challenging you. I’m only offering advice.”

    Ashley paused. “Advice? As if I need such a thing.”

    “If we fight seriously, yes, there is a high possibility you would kill me—”

    “I would,” Ashley said, cutting Ms. Frazzle off. “Let us leave no doubt.”

    “Okay. You would. But unleashing your power here would cause you unwanted attention."

    “You’re speaking of those useless humans from SIGMA, or perhaps our mongrel offspring from what they call the Alliance?”


    “Them and more. The heroes of this city—of this world. The Forum, the Arcadians, the Valterian rulership, and not to mention your very own father.”

    Ashley frowned as the ensemble of metal blades surrounding her sank into the ground at a slow pace. “So you even know of the Forum? You’re more resourceful than I thought. But then again I’ve heard that they’ve become a bit sloppy during the last millennium. Comes with being so close to their goal. Even so, none of those groups worry me that much. I don’t consider them threats.”

    “Maybe not, but word of your appearance here would reach back to Avalon. To the Eternalists. To the Duskanian Empire. BRIM and the other nations. How do you think they will react knowing the ruler’s seat of the largest country in Foresta is currently unoccupied? ”

    “So not only do you try to threaten me but my country as well?”

    “What would I have to gain from that?” Ms. Frazzle asked in a strangled voice, as she closed her eyes in exasperation. “Aryva Vasta is located smack dab in the middle of your territory, still there as you’ve have graciously allowed it to be when you first came to power. Anything that effects Artisans would affect my homeland as well.”

    Ashley’s lips curled in a delightful smirk. “My homeland, she says. Is that really the case anymore?”

    Ms. Frazzle frowned. “Perhaps we should focus on the matter at hand.” She motioned a hand toward Terra.

    Ashley’s cruel smile dimmed, her lips tightening. She rolled her eyes before breaking eye contact with Ms. Frazzle, seeming reluctant. I couldn’t tell if she was more annoyed at being ordered around or being unable to view the sore expression on Ms. Frazzle’s face, something caused by her digging.

    “Well then, Terra Eatos,” Ashley said in a booming voice, after turning to face him, giving him sweet smile that looked so fake it made me sick. Even with Ms. Frazzle here to watch Ashley, each step she took toward Terra filled me with dread. Ashley stopped a few feet in front of him, towering over him as he was still crouched. Her golden blade was dangerously close to him. “Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

    The edges of Terra’s mouth lifted into a slight smirk and he gave a small huff before standing up. Now taller than Ashley, he looked her straight in the eye. “It’s not every day that you get to see the hundreth princess of Dragonbornnia in her full glory.”

    “You know about that?” Nathan asked, shocked, startling me. He was giving Terra an accusing look of betrayal.

    “Yup.”

    I shook my head. It felt as if my normal life was coming apart at the seams. No. It already had while ago. Mom and Dad. Ms. Frazzle and Ashley. Terra. Did everyone we know secretly have powers or some rich backstory? At this point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Nathan was a cape as well.

    “… a princess?” I asked, in a low voice, glancing at Terra and Ashley.

    Terra’s smile widened as stepped beside Ashley to face me. “Ashley here is the real deal. A Valterian of pure royalty.”

    She’s a Valterian? So that’s why Ms. Frazzle called her a goddess…

    “Of course, she is,” Tiffany said as she folded her arms. “Why am I not surprised?”

    “Right?” Terra asked in agreement, I heard a hint of teasing in his voice. He slowly walked around Ashley in a circle, his careful gaze scrutinizing her. Ashley’s sharp eyes followed him wherever he moved. Terra paused once he was in front of her again. “She’s one of the Dragonborne, the remnants of the Dragon Clan. The most powerful Valterian clan to ever walk the heavens, part of the royal family that rules all of Valteria. And that’s not all—our goddess here has a nation of her own, all to herself. On a pretty little planet, we like to call Avalon.”

    “That’s enough!” Ashley asserted as she sheathed her broadsword in a brown sheath covered with golden trim, drawing our attention. “Having such a pitiful introduction would be in poor taste.” She gave Terra an irritated glare. “I’d rather kill myself than have you explain my history in such a manner.” Tiffany had found her way over to my side; Ashley faced my sister and me.

    “That would solve things quicker,” Terra muttered, offhand.

    “What was that?”

    “Nothing. Just a little joke.”

    I glanced at Tiffany with my peripheral vision since the majority of my focus was on Ashley. I slid my hand down next to my thighs; I wafted it through the air until I came in to contact with Tiffany’s hand. I gave her hand a slight squeeze for comfort.

    “Since everyone else here is aware,” Ashley started, “It’s only right for you then, to know who I am. My true name is Audrey Genia Citrine Arcaria Dragonborne.”

    That was a long name.

    “I am the glorious Ruler of Artisans that will one day regain my birthright, and take the throne of Valteria. As of now, like those two,” she motioned toward Nathan and Ms. Frazzle, “You three,” she pointed at me, Terra, and Tiffany, “belong to me.”

    There was a slight pause as Ashley—no—Audrey Genia made her declaration.

    “Belong to you…?” Tiffany asked, hesitant. “Don’t we already? I mean you practically act like you own us in school. Ever since you’ve forced us to join that group of yours.”

    Audrey Genia shook her head. “No. You’re more than that now. Your status is akin to that of my most loyal subjects.”

    Tiffany gave a dry laugh. “Like that’s any better?”

    “It is,” Audrey Genia confirmed. “You’d be surprised at what I do for those that are mine.”

    “Oh really, like you what you do for Mercy when you still allow that douchebag to hang around us?”

    I gave my sister an incredulous look. “You’re bringing that up now?”

    “Why shouldn’t I? Didn’t our grand leader here promise she would handle it?”

    “I have and I will. I always keep my promises. But there is no need to remove him from us completely at this time.”

    Tiffany looked furious. “No need—”

    “Do not raise your voice against me,” Audrey Genia warned with a snarl, her eyes fierce.

    “Hey, let’s relax,” Ms. Frazzle said with her hands out in a placating manner, worried. “Who are you guys talking about?”

    “Timothy,” Terra answered.

    Terra,” I warned, hoping he wouldn’t explain his answer further. Everyone was making such a big deal out of it.

    “…What happened?” Nathan asked, his voice quiet and detached.

    Terra glanced at him in silence. From what I could tell, Nathan didn’t seem too angry at Terra anymore. His gaze was sharp, focused. I found it peculiar because it seemed like now Nathan was more focused on me. Terra looked back at me. I was quiet, pleading for him not to say anything, fully aware of Tiffany tensing up beside me—my hand still encasing her’s.

    “A house party at Tim’s place. You know how Mercy’s no longer going out with him? They got into an argument. Got a little ugly. We had to break it up.”

    Tiffany didn’t say anything to refute her boyfriend but her hand squeezed mine harder.

    It didn’t seem like Nathan or Ms. Frazzle bought that explanation, but they didn’t ask for anything else. But the way Nathan was looking at me, I could tell he would demand more information later.

    Ms. Frazzle sighed. “Okay, now back to the first issue.”

    “Oh, come off it, serpent-elf,” Audrey Genia scoffed.

    “It’s not nice to be rude, Ashley.”

    “Has your mind finally broken? Why are you calling me by that alias now? Everyone here knows who I am.”

    “I’m in the process of reminding you that if we are to continue to play the roles we have chosen so that we could remain in this world, you must remember that here, officially, I’m your teacher. And as a student, you should show some respect, not just to me but to your classmates and friends as well.”

    Audrey Genia harrumphed. “It seems coming into contact with Nathan has helped you gain a backbone,” she said, the heat draining from her voice. “However, I did not come to this planet to be lectured a fallen queen, serpent-elf.”

    “Fallen queen…?” I asked. Was Ms. Frazzle royalty too?

    “Are you Valterian?” Tiffany asked her.

    Ms. Frazzle faced us. “Like Audrey Genia, I am not originally from Earth but I am not Valterian nor part of any race of gods. I’m an Avalonian. From the planet Terra so kindly mentioned for us before.”

    “Avalon,” I said.

    “Yes,” Ms. Frazzle confirmed. “My real name is Myadin Sagittaria, my home is the land of Aryva Vasta.”

    “Your home was,” Audrey Genia said, almost looking like she wanted to gloat. “Such a shame that Naga banished you.”

    “Yes,” Myadin said through gritted teeth.

    “…I was wondering where I remembered you from,” Terra said.

    Myadin gave him a curious look. “Have we met before?”

    “No. But I’ve heard of you. Seen your work.” Terra’s sly smile caused Myadin to fidget with the sleeves of her robes.

    “What… did you… hear about me?”

    “Heard lots of things. Had to confirm stuff about you on some missions. They say you can’t be trusted. That you’re the Witch of Lies, the blasphemous serpent.”

    Audrey Genia smiled while nodding in agreement. “The Queen of Madness.”

    Man, had we stumbled into some serious and heavy stuff. I had so many questions and I didn’t know where to start.

    “Avalon,” I said, my gaze alternating between Terra and the two other capes, “That’s where you guys are from right? Why did you all come here? I mean—it’s not that I don’t like you guys or anything—but… I’m just…”

    Baffled that we’ve been surrounded by people with powers.

    Terra chuckled. “It’s okay Mercy, I’m sure we all get what you mean.”

    Tiffany gave Audrey Genia a careful look. “Isn’t she Valterian though? She has to be from the same place Nexus and PTE are from.”

    “Yeah,” I agreed, “and Kazuya.”

    “Where did you hear that name?” Audrey Genia asked, her voice sharp.

    Tiffany and I glanced at each other. “We’ve met him before?”

    “You met Kazuya?”

    “Uh, we got dragged into the middle of a cape fight Friday after the party,” I explained. “He appeared in front of us after while being chased by Arcadians.”

    “Arcadians?” Audrey Genia clamped her eyes shut and swallowed her lips like she was trying to keep herself from losing it. She groaned. It was such a weird response to me, as I always used to her being so prim and proper. “That man…”

    “You know him?” Tiffany asked. “He stayed with us for a day or two.”

    “What don’t I know about him is the question,” Audrey Genia said. Her eyes became unfocused as she glanced away from us. “He was my teacher. A mentor to me and my sister. A devious one, truly,” Audrey Genia shook her head and then looked at Terra. “Regardless, we can discuss that loose fox at a later date. Terra, it was my mistake letting you run free as an assassin.”

    “He’s an assassin?” Nathan asked in disbelief.

    “I’ve should have known better, really,” Audrey Genia mused. “After your battle with that BRIM agent—Anton Ryan.”


    Mr. Ryan? She was talking about our assistant principal. Did something happen between him and Terra? I gave Tiffany a questioning look but she was just as surprised as I was. Myadin also seemed shocked by Audrey Genia’s words.

    “Terra,” I said, drawing his attention. “That gang member we ran into after school that one time, didn’t he say he was an assassin? Wasn’t he with the group of people that kidnapped you?”

    Audrey Genia huffed. “That kidnapping was a ruse or an initiation ritual of some sort. He’s in league with them now. Isn’t that right, Eatos? You’re a full-fledged member of the Sinister Seven.”

    “That can’t be,” Myadin muttered.

    “But it is,” Audrey Genia said, her gaze still lingering over Terra. “I’ve should have known something was off after we had fought those bastards together that night. I didn’t use my abilities and yet they still knew who I was.”

    Terra snorted in amusement. “It’s not like you’re hiding your face. Anyone from Avalon would know who you are.”

    “So that’s what it was about,” I muttered, glancing at Terra. “I was wondering you said you had to lay low for a couple of days.”

    “The both of you fought against the Sinister Seven?” Myadin asked.

    “I thought they were targeting me with how they were acting, having members follow me everywhere,” Audrey Genia said. “Now I know they were only preparing a test for Terra.”

    “You’re almost right, Audrey,” Terra said. “But I’ve been with the Seven for a very long time. Way longer than you think. That thing we set up? It was cover to follow you around. To get closer to you. We needed someone to keep a better eye on you.”

    “Unbelievable,” Myadin said.

    Terra gave her a slight smile. “Sorry, teach.”

    Myadin frowned at him. “That still doesn’t explain why you—why the Sinister Seven is targeting Nathan.”

    “What exactly is the Sinister Seven anyway?” Nathan asked while glaring at Terra, with folded arms. “I haven’t heard of that name before. Is it a new gang that picks random people to kill?”

    “Nah, man. We don’t kill indiscriminately. We’re an organization of assassins and mercenaries that originate from Avalon. We’re pretty well known there as a group but not a lot of people actually know our true identities. I mean usually, if you did know, you were a target and when you’re our target, you don’t live long.”

    “Does that mean I should be worried?”

    Terra shook his head.

    “The Sinister Seven should have disbanded years ago,” Myadin said. “After the Bloodstained Festival.”

    “Officially, yeah,” Terra said. “We still take jobs, private assignments that pay big. But we disappeared from public view for a few years. Constantly moved around. I came to Earth first. When I was five.”

    I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Terra an assassin at five years old?

    “Everyone else trickled in here slowly from various other planets but we’re all back together now. ”

    Myadin’s brow furrowed and the creases of her forehead increased in number as her mind seemed to juggle the implications of Terra’s words.

    “And Nathan was one of your assignments.” Audrey Genia’s words sounded more like a statement than a question.

    “Yup.”

    “Why? Who gave you this job?”

    “Dusk.”

    At Terra’s answer, Myadin frowned and bit her lip. Audrey Genia didn’t seem surprised, but her face hardened; she looked more serious.

    “How in creation would that dragon know about Nathan?” Audrey Genia asked in a whisper loud enough for us to hear.

    “Dusk?” Nathan asked. “Who is he?”

    “He’s the king-emperor of Duskan and the Duskanian Empire,” Terra explained, as he moved to the fence close to the field so that he could lean on it. “The strongest Legendary God Monster on Avalon. Well, his strength is considered to be tied with the leader of Guardian, who lives in the free world.” Terra waved a hand through the air in a frivolous gesture. “But you know—semantics.”

    A dragon king. I thought back to my visions. Could it be possible that I knew the person Terra was talking about? I felt a soft hand squeezing mine, gently. Tiffany had grabbed my hand this time. I glanced at my sister who was looking at me, worried. I gave her a cautious smile.

    “God monsters,” Nathan looked at Terra with an expression that could only be described as a mix of confusion and irritation. “The fuck…”

    “Why would the Dragon King want Nathan dead?” Myadin asked, her voice piercing through the air—causing Nathan to flinch.

    “I would like to know that reason as well,” Audrey Genia said.

    Terra faced Audrey Genia. “It’s simple. Because of Nathan's potential. I don’t know the full picture, but apparently, Nathan has to power to fix you up.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “Weren’t your majority powers sealed away by Decimatus?”

    Myadin's eyes widened.

    Audrey Genia scowled. “You even know of that.”

    “Yeah. Nathan has the power to undo that. He can unseal your powers but I don’t know the specifics. Dusk doesn’t want you to regain your power because then it would be easier to remove you from the picture and conquer Avalon. Lord knows he has enough on his plate already, with all the important players on the planet making moves.”

    “So that’s why Decimatus told you to watch and protect him,” Myadin said to Audrey Genia.

    Audrey Genia growled in annoyance. “I didn’t want many people knowing of this. It causes too many problems. I can never understand what father is thinking.”

    “Wait, your dad sealed your powers?” Tiffany asked. “You still looked like you had them to me.”

    Audrey Genia smiled at her. “That was nothing. Just wait until I regain all of my abilities.”

    Nathan didn’t seem convinced about their comments. “This doesn’t make any sense. I don’t have any powers. I’m not a cape.”

    Myadin caressed Nathan’s shoulder in a soft but firm grip. “You don’t know, but Decimatus had been the ruler of Valteria since it was created. Before he stepped down a year ago. If he thinks you’re important, Nathan, it’s a pretty big deal. Honestly, I’m surprised he even knows of you.”

    “Yes,” Audrey Genia agreed. “My father’s wisdom is unparalleled. He never does or says anything without reason.”

    “Mmm,” Myadin hummed while looking Nathan over. “If Nathan has the potential to become hallowed, perhaps we can find a way to pull that power out of him.”

    Audrey Genia gave Nathan a searching look. “Probably going to need something more intense than a fist fight.” She faced Terra. “Were you serious about assassinating Nathan? From what I could tell you approached him directly. You didn’t use your powers now like when you killed Anton.”

    I tensed, viewing Terra in a new light. That wasn’t possible. Terra wouldn’t—he couldn’t have killed our assistant principal. Mr. Ryan was just here a day ago. I knew Terra just admitted that he was an assassin, but seriously?

    “Man, come on,” Terra said. “I couldn’t kill my best friend, even if it was a mission. I was really waiting for you to come here and stop me.”

    “I thought as much.”

    “Myadin beat you to the punch though. I didn’t expect her at all.”

    “Haven’t I told you to always expect the unexpected?” Myadin said favoring Terra with a smile.

    “Yeah, well, we’re not exactly writing essays here,” Terra said, teasing.

    “True.”

    Audrey Genia stepped up to Terra, eye to eye. “Be glad that you haven’t taken your mission seriously. Otherwise, I would have slain you. I still might if you anger me again.”

    Terra smile widened. “I’d always welcome a challenge,” he said, letting his statement linger.

    “Don’t tell me you’re flirting with another girl right in front of me,” Tiffany said, causing Terra to chuckle.

    “You’re my one and only,” Terra said making Tiffany roll her eyes. He glanced back at Audrey Genia. “I’m not gonna try to kill Nathan. I promise. I’m done with this mission.”

    Audrey Genia nodded in acknowledgment, she gave all of us a pensive look. Myadin looked deep in thought as well.

    “It’s almost beyond belief that the Sinister Seven would take missions from Dusk.” Myadin glanced at Terra. “Even more so that they would order you kill your own friend.”

    Terra sighed. “Trinity rarely cares about the mission parameters.”

    “Darkshadow,” Audrey Genia hissed under her breath. “That woman has been a pain in my backside ever since I had come to that planet.”

    Terra laughed. “You know how Trinity is. A cold-blooded Tainted assassin. She’d take a mission without a second thought.”

    “Of course,” Audrey Genia said, unamused. “The Tainted. Another race the Omniverse could live without.”

    Terra grinned but said nothing else.

    “Wait,” I said, taking the moment of silence as a cue to speak. I didn’t want to ask but I had to know. “Terra, did you really kill Mr. Ryan?”

    Terra glanced at me, resolute; but before he could respond, Myadin came to his aid.

    “Mercy,” she said, careful. “Mr. Ryan was… He wasn’t from here, like us. He was a foreign agent from BRIM, a country on a different planet with different rules. Different laws. Based on what we know he was basically here to watch and then kill Terra.”

    Audrey Genia sighed. “Humans, no matter what land they appear on always do such useless things.”

    “You don’t have to sugar-coat it, teach,” Terra said, as I felt the apprehension increase in my chest. “Yeah, Mercy, I killed him.”

    My heart fell through my chest. Even though he could be strict with students, our assistant principal was always nice to me. Logically, I knew and understood that there was more to the story than what I was told. That everything, Myadin said about Mr. Ryan was probably correct. Still, it made me feel uneasy being so close to his killer. My friend.

    Kazuya, Audrey Genia, and Terra. Would I continue to be surrounded by people that could take the life of another without a second thought?

    “When did you kill him?” Tiffany rasped.

    “Yesterday, after you left,” Terra said, referring to when Tiffany stayed with him during after-school detention. “He was trying to follow me home before he attacked. I guess, he was getting impatient. That didn’t work out for him.”

    I burned inside as Terra made light of his murder, my stomach churning. I knew it shouldn’t have affected me this much but I felt disgusted by him.

    “What are your plans now, Terra?” our serpent-elf teacher asked, her violet eyes filled with intent.

    “I want a normal life,” Terra said, contemplative. “For a while at least. I’m going to stay here and protect my buddy instead.” He gave Nathan a pointed glance.

    “Won’t that put you at odds with the Sinister Seven?”

    “I’ll contact Trinity and explain myself. Since you and Audrey Genia are here protecting him, she’ll understand if I couldn’t complete the mission. Might have to fib a little though.”

    “What about the werewolf guy from before?” I asked.

    “Oris?” Terra asked for confirmation and I nodded. “Don’t worry about him. He wouldn’t try anything now that he’s probably realized Audrey and Myadin are here. Once I talk with Trinity, he’ll back off.”

    “So, Oris Keubare is nearby?” Myadin asked, looking past the football fields toward the hill wear the school was.

    I remembered that I still had my class presentation in Japanese II with Rika. She was probably pissed that I hadn’t shown up, but I didn’t care. What I was involved in here was way more important and Myadin could vouch for us later.

    “He goes by the last name Kester now.”

    Myadin sniffed. “Trying to hide his origin?”

    “Something like that.” Terra turned away from Myadin and Audrey Genia walked up to my sister and I. He paused, turning around to look at Nathan. “Nathan, Mercy,” he said, “Tiff. I apologize about all of this. For not telling you any of this stuff and who I was. I didn’t want to cause you guys stress from knowing my history, about why I was here. But I don’t have any excuses. I still want to be friends with all of you.” Terra paused. “Are we good?”

    After a moment, Tiffany broke away from me and ran to her boyfriend enveloping him in a hug, before giving him a small peck on the lips. Terra looked at me, expectant. I gave him a slight nod before looking down and away. I heard gravel kick up from the track and glanced up. Thick tension filled the air as Nathan walked up to Terra and stared him down with an unreadable expression.

    Still serious, Nathan extended a hand, Terra smirked and grabbed it.

    “We’re good,” Nathan said as they shook.

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; August 13th, 2018 at 12:39 PM.
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  17. #17
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    The Friend of My Ambition, The Enemy of My Ideal

    With care, I pulled my socks up and over my shin guards, the socks reaching the bottom of my knees with the shin guards held in place. I tied the laces of my neon cleats making sure they were extra tight before standing up, my cleats clacking against the floor of the girl’s locker room.

    I placed my small gym bag the in the bottom drawer of my closet locker and locked it before putting my sneakers on top of it, right under where my shirts and extra jerseys hung. I checked to see if Tiffany was finished dressing.

    My sister was busy messing around with her Dutch braids while glancing at herself in her locker mirror. Noticing I was observing, she turned around to face me before tugging on my braids with a cheeky smile. I quickly slapped her hand away.

    It had been about two weeks since the incident at the practice fields. Since when I learned my friends and teacher were capes from another world. The truth about Mr. Ryan’s death only for us to know.

    The moment of silence held during homeroom for Mr. Ryan’s murder made me feel sick, and I couldn’t do anything. Worse was the fact that we were lied to about it. Everyone was told by Principal Hardy that he died in an apparent car accident; his funeral was held during the weekend after.

    Tiffany and I didn’t go but from what I heard, faculty and a surprising amount of students were there. Mr. Ryan was always involved in the lives of student and faculty, it showed.

    “What’s wrong?” Tiffany asked, her impish expression morphing into a look of concern.

    “Nothing, just thinking about the announcement during homeroom.”

    “Still?”

    “What do you mean ‘still’? It’s bothering me. They straight up lied about Mr. Ryan’s death.”

    “No duh. Would you rather they tell us everything and get Terra locked up?”

    Irritation spiked inside my chest. I shook my head. “No—I don’t know,” I said in a strained whisper. “I mean, he’s a freaking murderer, Tiffany!”

    Tiffany seemed like she was trying to hold back her own annoyance at my words. “Didn’t you remember what Ms. Frazzle told us? SIGMA is probably holding info back from the public like they always do.”

    “Why though?”

    “Who cares? They might not even know who did it. If they don’t see it fit to come up here an arrest him, who are we to complain?”

    My lips thinned. “Are you really alright with this? He has powers right? You saw how easily he admitted it. What happens to you one day if gets angry and lets himself slip?”

    Tiffany rolled her eyes. “Ems. That can be an issue with any guy.”

    “It’s not the same. Terra’s killed. He’s an assassin, for crying out loud.”

    “So what? He was defending himself. Villains aren’t the only ones who kill. Heroes do too.”

    “Not the good ones.”

    Tiffany tutted. “Oh please. Like you’re gonna care about someone’s welfare in a fight when they’re trying to take your head off. Mr. Ryan was the same, you know. Look, I know how you say he was nice to you, but he wasn’t who you imagined him to be.”

    “You say that like you knew.”

    “Nope. I was just as surprised as you. Terra suspected he was fishy, ever since we started high school.” Tiffany sighed and faced her locker. “I’m just glad Ms. Frazzle vouched for us then,” she said, bringing up the day. “If she hadn’t made up some reason about why we were late to class, we would have been screwed. Coach Stephen might have sat us out again.”

    Tiffany was trying her usual ploy, changing the subject of conversation by using something in close relation to it. Though I knew what she was doing, and though my sister knew I knew, I went along with it—not willing to disturb our other teammates with a heated argument. God knows it was the last thing we needed right now, before a big game. It was time to focus.

    “Alright, girls!”

    Coach Stephen called all of us from the locker room entrance, telling us to get ready to take the field. After everyone was finished dressing, we lined up and walked through the locker room door.

    I tried to push my emotions down in a futile effort. I could at least try to act calm. “Ms. Frazzle seems more detached lately,” I said.

    “She does seem a little out of it.” Tiffany gave me a pointed glace. “Like someone else I know.”

    “It’s been hard to focus since all that crazy stuff happened,” I mused, rueful.

    “You’ve been struggling in practice and you haven’t been doing your homework. You’re going to fail Algebra II at this rate. How will you explain to Mom and Dad that you failed Algebra?

    “It can get hard… when you don’t study.”

    “Exactly.”

    “I’ll get my act together, Tiff.”

    “You better. I don’t pay you enough to be the failing ugly twin to my hot attractive self. Well, it’s not like I have to pay you for that.”

    I pretended to act shocked by her gibe. “Shut up! You don’t pay me at all.”

    “True enough,” Tiffany said with a smirk, “but everyone thinks I’m prettier.”

    “Everyone thinks we look the same, dumb-ass.”

    “I know, it’s such a travesty. At least Terra knows better though. He told me I look at least point zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-one percent better than you, girl.”

    “Does that mean anything?”

    “That means everything.”

    “Uh huh.”

    Tiffany gave me a playful tap on the shoulder. “Hey. I’m glad you’re talking to me again. I thought you were avoiding me.”

    I looked away from her as we exited the school building. I caught sight of the other team’s bus in the parking lot. “I was mostly avoiding Terra and since you seemed to be smitten with him more than ever…”

    “No. That’s not fair. You haven’t been talking to me at home either. Locking your door at night? Not speaking to me when we have dinner?”

    “I guess I didn’t feel comfortable talking to someone that cosigns Terra’s actions.” I was frowning, annoyed. “Sorry,” I said quickly, after seeing Tiffany’s peeved look. I sighed. “I wonder if I should tell Ms. Frazzle and Ashley about my dreams, I’m not sure it’s a good idea.”

    “It would probably best to wait,” Tiffany said.

    “Mmm,” I hummed in agreement. “I wish Kazuya would come back, he would know what to do.”

    My sister glanced at me in disbelief but she said nothing.

    The two of us were quiet as the rest of our teammates continued to chat among themselves, the rest of the girls having their own private conversations as we walked toward the field. Reaching the pitch, I glanced at the multi-shaded and stripped lawn of turf—the gridiron lines still visible under the soccer markings. It was normal to see for us, we had our games on the same field that our football team used.

    Making our way over to our team bench, some of the girls that were still wearing sneakers or other shoes took the time to get out their cleats and put them on. I sat down on the cool grass and started stretching, trying to remove the stiffness I had from sitting on my behind all day. We would have team stretches in a few minutes but it wouldn’t hurt to start early.

    Tiffany had taken a soccer ball from one of the ball bags lying around near the edge of the sideline and dribbled over with it, at a smooth even pace. As Tiffany focused on juggling the ball with her feet and knees, Rika approached us wearing her goalie jersey, her reddish-dyed hair gleaming in the afternoon sun.

    “You guys ready for your first game back?” Rika asked.

    I gave a light shrug. “I think so. For some reason, I feel a little nervous.”

    Tiffany cuffed her ball in midair and sat on the ground with her foot, making sure her boot was on top. “You’ll be fine, Ems.”

    “Yeah,” Rika agreed. “It’s not like you can do anything wrong. We’ll win anyway. We’re undefeated so far.”

    Tiffany huffed. “That’s only because Ashley is a freak of nature.”

    Literally.

    We were a good team, ranked twenty-fifth in the nation last year. But Ashely was something else. Joining this season, Ashley drove us to the top of the rankings at number one, single-handedly.

    “She has to be the top player in the country by now,” I said.

    “Of course she is!” Tiffany said. “Forty-six goals in ten games? It’s insane.”

    “Hmm. Forty-six or forty-seven?”

    “Does it matter?”

    I glared at my sister. “Uh—rude! Don’t be such a bitch.”

    As I started to tell Tiffany off, Rika chuckled and left us, getting another soccer ball to practice with.

    “Seriously, you really need to work on that attitude.”

    Tiffany rolled her eyes and passed me her ball with a hard touch. I lunged for the ball in a bout of effort; I had to overextend to keep it from passing me. I cringed internally from the strain, I barely caught it. I sighed and wiggled out the kinks in my leg before passing the ball back.

    Tiffany trapped it under her foot and pursed her lips. She beckoned me closer with a curled finger in a ‘come-hither’ motion. Heh. Didn’t want to kick it back? She knew I’d have her sprinting all over the field to get her back for that one.

    Tiffany eyed me with suspicion before passing back the ball. She turned to look toward the center of the field. My gaze followed hers. Tiffany was looking at Ashley.

    I kicked to her. “What’s wrong?”

    “Nah, nothing,” Tiffany said, catch the ball off balance. She straightened up. “It’s ridiculous that no one has investigated to see if she’s hallowed or whatever. You’d think the NFHS would be all over that.”

    I gave a faint hum. “There’s a bunch of tests in place to stop hallowed from competing at sports. From all levels—shoot—even in elementary school. Ashley probably had a way to bypass them. Maybe ’cause she’s a Valterian.”

    “Or maybe because she threatened to off the school board.”

    “Tiffany, come on. Don’t say that.”

    “What?” she asked, her eyes wide like she was genuinely mystified. “You don’t think she would?”

    “For not being allowed on the soccer team? No.”

    Ashley may have a bad temper when she was challenged, but I didn’t think she would kill people for being excluded from something she knew she had no business participating in. Ashley was above that.

    “She could try out for the U.S. Woman’s Powered team,” Tiffany said. “When she gets older.”

    “Mmm. She’d have to play for a powered club or a high school that sanctions hallowed sports. Most schools don’t.”

    Ours didn’t.

    “Yeah but there some in our district do, like Fellowship.”

    “True,” I agreed as Tiffany mentioned our rival school. “You know, I’m surprised that they do, considering how it’s Christian and everything.”

    Tiffany arched an eyebrow. “Maybe they know something we don’t?” her voice was laced with sarcasm. With a smirk, she passed the ball back. “What about the Preternatural Grand Prix? She’d love something like that.”

    “Combat sports…” I mused. “Pretty sure Ashley is way too strong. They’d have to limit her like crazy in order to give other teams a chance.”

    “You don’t even know that,” Tiffany said in her annoying ‘matter-of-fact’ tone. “She barely showed us anything.”

    “She showed us enough. And she said she’s even more powerful than that. Plus, she’s a… um… I don’t know—a god?

    “Yeah, yeah,” Tiffany conceded. I passed the ball back to her and she started to dribble toward our end of the pitch. “Come on, Ems.” I followed her to the middle of the field, noticing Rika on crouched on the goal-line. Her hands were up and her eyes focused on everyone that had lined up a few feet from the goal.

    Tiffany and I stood in line behind some other teammates. It was time for our practice shots.

    Ashley was the first up, of course. She moved her ball to a favorable position and then took a few steps back before dropping her shoulders a bit. She glanced up and Rika stiffened. It was on. I bet Ashley was smiling. Ashley shifted in stride, her feet gliding across the grass. With her form perfect, Ashley’s leg curved down in a brilliant ark as she aimed to strike the ball with retribution.

    Rika’s feet vanished from the earth as she took for the sky. It happened in flash. The sound of the ball hitting the back of the net graced my ears.

    Laying on her side, Rika turned her head around to see the soccer ball rolling around inside the goal. “Damn,” she cursed.

    Ashley had fooled her perfectly, acting like she was aiming for the corner of the net while kicking it straight down the middle. The perfect blonde headed to the back of the line, her faint smile showing how pleased she was. She caught my eye and I could have sworn her smile widened.

    I frowned at her and paused for a moment, looking over past her head to the other side of the field. The baby-blue jerseys of South Ravensworth caught my eye. With the way they were shooting, hitting the goal from way beyond the penalty box, they looked ready to play. I turned around and exhaled while closing my eyes. Almost time.

    When Tiffany was done arguing with Rika after her botched shot, I took a step forward.

    oOo


    “Good game,” I said, shaking the hand of the South Ravensworth goalie, the last person in line.

    “Good game,” the black-haired girl said. She ran off to join her teammates on the sideline her ponytail waving back and forth.

    “Lions!” Coach Stephen called, “Huddle up!”

    I turned to jog toward the bench with everyone else. I sat on the grass next to Tiffany and Rika, in front of our coach with the rest of the girls. Tiffany was fiddling her with shin guards, her socks and cleats already off. She leaned back, sighing in relief as she wiggled her toes. Rika shook her head at Tiffany’s antics while talking her gloves off.

    “Nicely done, girls,” Coach Stephen said, gruff. “We started off a little slow, had some trouble getting shots on goal. But you guys stuck with it, Ashley and Karen made some excellent touches and we made it out with a win.”

    He was making it sound like we barely made it. South Ravensworth did score first, but we came back in the second half with a vengeance. Ashley lit up the South Ravensworth goalkeeper, scoring three of our four goals.

    “Also, I would like to commend two players that have returned to join us,” our coach said with a hint of amusement—a twinkle in his eye as he faced me and my sister. “Tiffany, Mercy, though we can use some improvement, that was an excellent defensive effort.”

    I smiled at him, chest warming up a little.

    “Thank ya, coach,” Tiffany said, her head resting on Rika’s knee and thigh.

    Coach Stephen smiled. “Alright. You guys were great. No Friday practice this week. You can have the weekend off and we’ll come back Monday ready to work.”

    “Stephen.” Patricia, our Assistant Coach, drew his attention walking from the fence with a recruiter that had come to watch Ashley play. “Ms. Maduka would like a word.”

    Coach Stephen barely turned his head before dismissing us. “Shanice break it down.” He left us to consult with Patricia and the recruiter.

    Intrigued, I gave the recruiter a quick once-over. The pretty woman in question was mixed, her light brown skin a nice even tone, her curly chestnut brown hair in a tied into a bun. Her jumper had the symbol for Alexis University near the top on the left side. The letters ‘A’ and ‘U’ overlaid diagonally on top of each other with a small star in the middle of the ‘A’.

    “Alright, ladies!” Our senior captain called as she stood up, drawing my attention. “Get in here!”

    All of us huddled around her, piling our hands on top of hers.

    “I don’t care what happens we’re staying undefeated this year baby!” Shanice claimed. “All the way to state. Ain’t that right?” she looked around at our faces and some teammates cheered in agreement. “That’s right! Lions on three. one, two, three!”

    “Lions!” We yelled, the team breaking up into our small groups with cheers and excitement.

    “Yasss, girl!” Tiffany said, enveloping me in a hug. “We are back! We should so celebrate.”

    “We should.” Ashley approached us side by side with Rika. “The team is going to Giovanni’s. Shanice told me before the game.”

    “She’s giving us a lift?” Tiffany asked.

    Ashley nodded.

    “Perfect!”

    The four of us left the field together, following the rest of the team back to the locker room. We took our showers and cleaned up before changing into our normal clothes before heading to Shanice’s car. It was late when we got to Giovanni’s, the sky a dark blue as the sun had set. Our team picked the six tables in our usual spot, deep inside the pizzeria.

    “That recruiter,” I said, sitting down next to Tiffany, “was from Alexis University.”

    “Isn’t that a school for the hallowed?” My sister asked.

    “They have normal sports teams for hallowed not good enough for Division Zero,” Rika said. “They’re allowed to compete as long as they wear power limiters.”

    “Really?” I asked. “Didn’t know that.”

    “Or maybe…” Tiffany smirked at Ashley, who was sitting across from her.

    “Maybe what?” Rika asked.

    I kicked Tiffany from under the table, causing her to curse as she winced in pain.

    Rika gestured with a hand, her lips in a slight frown. “Well?”

    “I think… that Tiffany’s implying that I might be
    hallowed,” Ashley said, her stilted visage morphing as the hint of a smile showed her face. “Is that right, Tiffany?”

    Not one to back down, Tiffany leaned across the table her hands, hands folded. “Why else would someone from a hero college be here?”

    Rika didn’t seem impressed. “Maybe to see highest ranked soccer player in the country?”

    “Yeah…” Tiffany said, rubbing a hand under her chin. “or…”

    I yanked my twin’s bottom back into her seat. “Tiff, stop it.” No need to antagonize the dragon god that threatened to skewer our homeroom teacher. I looked Ashley, trying took keep the curiosity I felt off of my face. Was the Alliance keeping tabs on her?

    “Tiffany, be serious. Me? Hallowed?” Ashley said, her voice smooth like silk, her eyes vicious like a serpent’s. “You know better than that.”

    I know I certainly did. Being referred to as being a race beneath her… I bet she was offended. My body tense, I lowered my gaze. I could feel it. A hint of that strong energy I felt that day emanating from Ashley’s body. A warning for Tiffany to not overstep her bounds, in word and spirit.

    Tiffany narrowed her eyes then leaned her head back in a chuckling fit. “Yeah, I do,” she giggled. “Just kidding.”

    I wanted to glare at my sister for a sister for acting like an imbecile, but I couldn’t do that in front of Rika. I wasn’t sure if Rika noticed the little bit of aura that Ashley released, but her posture had changed. She shifted in her seat like she was uncomfortable, her attention on me.

    “Mercy,” Rika said, “is something up? You still seem out of it. I know you were pissed you let twenty-three get by you on that goal, but that wasn’t your fault, my positioning was off,” she tutted. “I almost had it.”

    That did bug me, but it would have felt worse I had cost us the game and ruined our undefeated season. Right now, I was just hoping that Tiffany and Ashley didn’t get into an argument or worse.

    “I’m alright, Rika.”

    “Yeah, we know that’s not true,” Tiffany remarked.

    Oh, please help me God before I slap this child. I looked up at the ceiling trying my best to ignore my sister.

    What? Am I wrong?”

    “Coach didn’t sit you out early for that,” Rika said, her eyes on mine. “You’ve been off your game for a while.”

    “I’m sure she has a lot of her mind.” Ashley gaze softened as she looked my way. “I’ve heard you’ve been struggling in class.”

    “Yeah,” Rika agreed. “You’re lucky you were able to get full credit for that doing your presentation late in Japanese II, otherwise your grade would probably be in the shitter. I’m still pissed about that by the way.”

    “We had… a good excuse,” I said, being meek. I did feel bad about leaving her to do the one we worked on together by herself.

    “What? A note from Ms. Frazzle? Everyone knows she’ll make up some bullshit to cover anyone in her homeroom.”

    “More like she talked to Mrs. Noguchi, personally,” Tiffany said. “I saw.”

    Rika waved her off. “All I saw was Mercy blundering her way through the door to hand her piece of paper, right after I did our presentation.”

    “Sorry, Rika,” I said. “I’ll make it up to you, somehow.”

    “Just don’t fail. Can’t have you sit out because of academic probation. Coach won’t play you.”

    “Don’t worry, I’ll get my act together.”

    “If something is wrong, you should tell us about it,” Ashley said.

    “Jeez, stop hounding her,” Tiffany said, her hand reaching on top of mine. “You don’t have to tell anyone anything unless you want to.”

    I gave her a slight smile.

    oOo


    It was finally the weekend and I found myself ambling down the huge interior of the bustling Ravensworth Emporium with the family, trying not to bump into the shoppers hustling all throughout. I felt giddy—surveying the various stores and colorful storefronts with lustful eyes. I always loved coming here. So many clothing stores to choose from it would take forever to visit them all. With hundreds of stores, this mall was like Ravensworth’s own King of Prussia—probably almost as big.

    “Mercy, don’t get too far ahead of us now!” Mom called. I turned around just in time to see her wave for me to slow down.

    I frowned as I saw Tiffany whispering to Terra walking next to Mom with Dad further behind, who was carrying some of the stuff we bought, i.e. everything. I waited for them to catch up before pulling my phone out and messing with it, pretending I was checking some text messages or whatever. Glancing up, I noticed Tiffany attempting to catch my eye but I ignored her. I refocused my attention on my phone screen, a knot forming in my stomach.

    “There’s a heavy SIGMA presence here,” Terra said, as two SIGMA officers in full gear walked by us in the crowd, both men with coffee in hand.

    He wasn’t wrong. SIGMA agents were all around the area today. Some were along the entrances to the shopping center, along with regular security. Others on the inside. We even had to walk through scanners to get in.

    “You’re right about that,” Tiffany said. “I wonder what’s going on.”

    “You didn’t hear?” Dad asked. Seeing our confused faces, he continued. “Media day?”

    Oooh,” Tiffany said.

    “Media day?” Terra asked.

    “I thought you guys were all about cape news,” Dad said. “Tiffany and Mercy spend all day looking at those videos on YouTube.”

    “David, what exactly is going on?” Mom asked.

    Tiffany answered for our dad. “It’s media day for Unity. They’re here today.”

    “What?” My surprise caused me momentarily stop giving her the silent treatment. Why would the heroic family team be here?

    Tiffany blinked at me. “Yeah. Didn’t you check The Hallowed Eve yesterday? It’s been advertised for a while now.”

    Huh. I often used the website to research capes or to find any information that was posted about my cape events. I hadn’t looked at the local boards in a week, so I must have forgotten the fact that Unity would be out publicly.

    “What made them pick here?” Terra asked, glancing at Tiffany.

    “It’s the biggest mall in the state,” Tiffany said. “They’re doing a publicity stunt. To help stores advertise products and merchandise and help reassure the public that they’re safe. You know, the usual.”

    “Hmm,” Terra said with interest as we arrived toward the center of the Emporium. “Looks like that’s them.”

    The plaza was a media circus with tons of people surrounding the group of Unity capes. There were cameras and people everywhere, most with their phones out taking pictures. The adoring fans were loud, shouting the names of their favorite heroes. Unity was pretty much stuck to their large panel booth, answer questions and signing autographs. Even the local news was here.

    There were way too many people in one place.

    “Want an autograph?” Dad asked with a smirk, seeing me look at the crowd.

    “…Maybe later. After things die down.”

    “Sounds like a good idea,” Terra said. “I don’t think everyone’s up there.”

    So he noticed. I recognized most of the Unity capes on the booth. It was everyone except for the Unity triplets. They were all dressed in their iconic skin-tight costumes. Their faces uncovered without masks, their identities revealed for the world to see.

    Vibrance, the leader of the team wore a black costume with violet highlights around the sides, a white star with an arrow rising through the middle on his chest. Crush, Vibrance’s wife was next to him, sporting her usual white and gold costume with a beautiful lightning design—running from her neck down to her abdomen before spreading outward.

    Hardlight, in his armored sliver and gray costume, was seated beside his wife—Vibrance’s younger sister, Immortalis. Her costume was white with amaranth trim.

    “Terra, I didn’t know you knew about Unity,” Tiffany said.

    “It’s kind of hard not to know about them, being one of the most popular teams of heroes in the country.”

    Unity was famous but not necessarily because of capes in their group, but because of what they represented. Consisting of two families the group claimed they had nothing to hide. They didn’t wear masks, taking inspiration from some of the Omniversals. They believed in being accountable heroes without secrets.

    I wasn’t so sure about that myself, though.

    I noticed Balancer, between signing autographs and answering questions for reporters, was chatting with his niece and nephew, Cosmiss and Dreammaker—the children of Hardlight and Immortalis. His hair freshly cut, Balancer wore a thin emerald visor and green suit with long white bands crisscrossing together on his costume forming green diamonds in the middle. Dreammaker’s costume was white and blue, the swirls on his costume oddly reminding me of Nature.
    Cosmiss’s
    violet and white costume had the same star design as Vibrance’s did but with arrows splitting the star from all sides.

    “I wonder where the rest of the girls are,” Tiffany said.

    “Did the news say they would be here?” Mother asked.

    “They could be shopping.”

    “Ooh, look!” Tiffany pointed at a popular clothing boutique across from the meandering crowd. “Terra, let’s go. We need to shop for some more winter clothes.”

    “…We do?” Terra asked dubiously, letting Tiffany pull him toward the direction of the store.

    I followed. Mom and Dad sat down on one of the benches in the mall lounge content to rest and wait for us. Entering the store, I glanced at some of the long sleeve tops and cardigans. Tiffany moved further down the junior sections, pulling a coat and a few tops of the rack.

    “Oh, I love this shirt,” Tiffany said. “What do think, Terra?”

    “It’s nice,” Terra said, amused. “Your style is more punkish though.”

    “I can dress like a spoiled high-maintenance girl when I want to.”

    “You are spoiled, so you have that part down. But do you need to try on all those outfits?”

    “Uh, yeah? Terra, I have standards you know. Shocking!”

    Terra chuckled. “I know. That’s the only reason we’re dating.”

    Tiffany coughed, her mouth hanging open. “Sassy!”

    “Gotta keep you in line. I’m not gonna help you carry those to the fitting room, you won’t try all of them on.”

    Ugh.”

    “Don’t ‘ugh’ me. Go on, get.”

    Tiffany bit her lip and walked back to Terra. She squeezed his arm with her free hand and Terra smirked.

    I rolled my eyes and turn back to exit the aisle. I froze, looking at a girl that was going through the rack a few feet from me. She was dressed in a hooded skirt, with yellow arrows traveling down the sides. She was a cape, one of the Unity triplets.

    “Catwhip?” I mouthed.

    “Hmm?” Catwhip looked up at me; her misty blue eyes looked so weird up close. “Something wrong?”

    “Uh… no—I was just surprised,” I said. “I thought you would be with the rest of your family.”

    “Oh? Are you sure you’re not shocked and filled with awe after meeting your favorite hero?”

    Huh?

    Catwhip laughed. “Relax. I’m only kidding. What’s your name? I’m Marissa Flann. You probably you already know that. You can call me Marissa if you want.”

    “Yeah… I’m Mercy Gaunt.”

    “Well, nice to meet you, Mercy.”

    “Nice to meet you too.”

    Catwhip smiled. “Anyway, about what you said, my sisters and I are taking a break. Doing a little shopping to get away from all people, you know? I love talking and giving interviews, but we’ll be here all day. Dealing with fans and reporters non-stop wears me out.”

    “Yeah, I totally get that.”

    “Ems! Who are you talking too?” Tiffany asked, approaching with Terra. “Is that Catwhip?”

    “Oooh boy,” Catwhip muttered, hesitantly looking around the rest of the shop.

    I shushed my sister, a finger held up to my lips. This was Catwhip’s time to relax and lie low. No need to ruin her break, drawing the mass of fans in here. Tiffany crouched and tip-toed over, apologetic. Terra shook his head.

    “This is my sister, Tiffany,” I said, facing Catwhip. “And this is her boyfriend, Terra.”

    “Hi,” Catwhip said, greeting them both. Her face changed we she saw me and Tiffany standing side-by-side. “Oh. Wow. You’re twins.”

    “Yup,” Tiffany said.

    “I can already tell you two are quite the handful. Ask me how I know.”

    The four of us laughed. Soon thereafter, two other girls approached us. The both of them wearing the same type of skirts with knee-high boots that Catwhip had on, but their costumes were hoodless. I knew who they were. Lightshow and Razorbash.

    “Marise, we’ve been looking all over for you,” Lightshow said.

    “Yeah,” Razorbash said. “Break time’s over. Mom wants us back.” She looked us over. “Don’t tell me, you’ve already started signing autographs?”

    Not yet.” Catwhip moved to introduced us. “These are my sister’s, Razorbash and Lightshow.” She turned. “Guys, this is Mercy, Tiffany, and Terra.”

    “Hey,” Razorbash said as she started to shake our hands.

    “I hope Marise hasn’t been causing you trouble,” Lightshow said, doing the same.

    “No—she’s fine. We kinda just bumped into each other,” I said.

    “Oh, wow!” Razorbash said, looking back and forth between me and my sister. “You guys are twins.”

    “That’s exactly what I said.” Catwhip seemed amused. “You’re gonna make them think we’re robots. Like borg.”

    “This is cool,” Razorbash said. “You’re kinda like us.”

    “‘Kinda’ is the key word,” Lightshow said.

    “I’m glad you guys change up how you wear your hair and costumes, at least,” Terra said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”

    I thought so too. Lightshow’s had her hair pulled back in a ponytail like Terra's, indigo lines on the side of her dress. Razorbash wore her hair down, most of her peach and white costume covered in thick v-like arrows.

    “Yeah,” Lightshow said. “That’s why we do it. I’d rather have us all dress the same so we can fool everybody, but no we can’t have that. It would cause issues with the media. Mom and Dad just don’t want us giving reporters any trouble.”

    Razorbash placed her hands on her hips. “Well, are we going back to the panel?”

    “Sure, but first—I don’t have a pen—do one of you have a pen?” Catwhip glanced at Razorbash and Lightshow, both girls were empty-handed. Catwhip took a phone out from her purse. “Okay. If you do want autographs, we can text you guys to meet us back here before we leave. No one deserves to wait in that mess.”

    “Awesome,” I said. I exchanged my number with Catwhip’s and the Unity triplets bid us farewell. We didn’t spend much time in the store after that. Meeting with Mom and Dad outside we decided to have some fun at the Emporium’s ice skating rink before getting lunch.

    oOo


    Plates clattered in the sink as I looked for the sponge. I was the last person to finish eating dinner and it was my turn to wash the dishes.

    “I’ll clean the kitchen,” my mom said, picking up pots from the stove so she could put them in the fridge. “Go see what Terra and your sister are up to.”

    Meh. At the moment, I would’ve preferred watching boring sports highlights on the couch with Dad, but I didn’t say that. Instead, I went downstairs to the basement. The two lovebirds were intolerable, but I couldn’t stay mad at them forever.

    They were sharing a bean bag, watching a movie. I sat next to Terra, causing him to inspect me.

    “You finally talking to me again?” he asked.

    “It’s been long enough,” Tiffany said.

    I frowned at her. “I still don’t know how you can act like nothing has changed. Like nothing is wrong.”

    “What are you even talking about?”

    “Mr. Ryan?“

    Tiffany groaned. “Are you serious, Ems? It’s been two weeks! Look, I know you wish Terra didn’t blast him away or whatever but he’s dead. It’s over. He’s not coming back. Move on.”

    “…there had to be another way.”

    “Oh, come on. I didn’t hear you complaining when Kazuya killed all those Arcadians right in front of your face!”

    My eyes clamped shut. That wasn’t fair. I still had nightmares about Shekhinah’s subordinates, crying out in anguish during their last moments.

    “Tiff. Easy,” Terra warned. I could feel his gentle grip on my shoulder. I wanted to move, but I couldn’t. “Mercy, I know what I did hurt your feelings and I apologize about that. I won’t make any promises, but if any of us are in a situation like that again and I have to fight, I’ll try not kill.”

    “No…” I opened my eyes, wiping the tears away. “Maybe… I was being unreasonable.”

    “Ems,” Tiffany moved closer, worried. “What…?”

    I winced. Images of that familiar castle formed in my head. “I had a dream,” I rasped, focusing on Tiffany. “Do you remember?”

    “A dream?” Terra asked.

    I nodded. “Back when we were younger, Tiff. I remember… remember telling it to you.”

    Tiffany waited for me to continue. The faint memory of seven other children racking my mind.

    “If I had the power, I would create a place would no one had to kill or die,” I whispered, thinking of an endless grassland. “A…”

    “Utopia,” Tiffany said, her voice hollow.

    I stopped. “You remember?”

    “Somehow.”

    We faced each other in silence.

    Terra leaned back on the bean bag, causing it to rustle. “Sounds like a beautiful place.”


    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; September 21st, 2018 at 12:04 AM.
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  18. #18
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Venom

    I hummed and licked my lips, flexing my fingers above the keyboard as I readied myself for an hour of extensive research. My sister, who was sitting at the computer next to mine, had her seat angled toward me as she glanced at what I was doing. Nathan, seated on my left, was focused on his own screen and Terra didn’t even turn his on. He was content to focus on us with lazy half-lidded eyes, the side of his face resting on his palm.

    I was kind of curious as to why Terra had chosen to sit by Tiffany instead of his own research partner, but I guess Nathan didn’t care if he and my twin flirted all day. Ms. Frazzle just gave us this project, and Terra was never serious about classwork until the last minute. I wondered how he passed his classes. Maybe being a master procrastinator was his super-power.

    Our assignment was to write a four-to-five page paper discussing current hallowed events and to create a presentation in which we would explain our findings to the class. The subject could range from anything; we could choose to write about how the hallowed affected the current political climate, the military, or creation of new technology. The influence of cape culture in entertainment and sports. Advancements in the medical field. Their impact on society.

    I wasn’t sure what aspect I wanted to write about and Tiffany didn’t offer any ideas yet, obviously waiting for me to do all the hard work.

    “What are you looking up?” Tiffany asked.

    “Hmm…” I swallowed my lips in thought, scanning The Hallowed Eve for news of interest.

    “What do you want to write about?” Tiffany asked.

    “Dunno. Why don’t you come up with some ideas instead of being lazy?”

    “I don’t want to hear that from someone who hasn’t been keeping up with their work until recently. I’m not being lazy, I’m not sure how you wanna do it.”

    “Mercy, you know Tiffany can’t help herself,” Terra said.

    Tiffany gave him a look.

    The edges of my lips lifted. “Yeah…”

    “I can’t believe you guys. Hey, Nathan. Give me some back up here. I’m not lazy, right?”

    Nathan hesitated for a moment, glancing over from his computer screen. “Sure… let’s go with that.”

    Terra chuckled.

    “Oh, fuck you.”

    “Yup.”

    Tiffany gritted her teeth in annoyance, glaring at Terra.

    “Huh.” A thread on the message boards had caught my eye. Apparently, forum posters had more information about the alien invasion that happened toward the end of last month. A day or so before Kazuya dropped into our lives.

    For about two hours, New York City was covered in the clouds of burning smoke as the aliens had hit the area, fighting each other rather than the humans as media had led us to believe. The ensuing battle had wrecked a swath from west Brooklyn, across lower Manhattan, and into Newark before they up and left.

    Thousands of spaceships, two armadas had entered through the sky from a giant portal opening from space. Like a wormhole. The various ships had started to shoot at each other as hallowed-like soldiers of both fleets disengaged from their ship hulls to fight on land, air, and sea.

    I scrolled down the thread looking at new pictures. Explosions galore. I had seen a video of the attack before, the day it happened. It was like a scene right out of a sci-fi movie.

    “You found something?” Tiffany asked.

    “New pictures from that invasion thing. Some cape chasers that were near ground zero posted some online.”

    “Man, I don’t understand why people do that,” Nathan said. “There’s colossal warships blowing the shit out of downtown, why don’t we walk into the middle of a fucking war zone so we can post videos on Snapchat. Seems like a great idea!”

    “You know how people are,” I said. ” They need the thrill and validation. Fifteen minutes of fame.”

    Nathan shook his head.

    Tiffany leaned over to get a better look at my screen. “It’s been like three weeks. Why post new stuff now?”

    “It’s possible that SIGMA was scrubbing information about it offline,” Terra said. “The moderators may edit or delete posts soon.”

    “What would they want hide?” I asked. “Everyone already knows that aliens exist.”

    “Maybe SIGMA was the reason for it,” Tiffany said.

    “People were saying we just happened to get involved in a war between two interdimensional races,” Nathan said, “with New York City as the battleground.”

    I paused, looking at blurry pictures of alien soldiers treck across the war-torn streets around the bridge. The aliens on both sides looked like animals from earth, but they were humanoid. Anthropomorphic.

    The alien armies had caused a rampage, slaughtering dozens of people caught in the crossfire. SIGMA had done it’s best to evacuate people in threatened zones, moving them to the subways or to streets further out, but the stories about people found buried under debris or in fields of laser fire hadn’t stopped coming in.

    “Where were the Omniversals, the heroes?” I asked. “They could have stopped all those people from getting hurt.”

    “Weren’t they on a mission in outer space or something?” Nathan asked.

    I faced him, intently. “And the Alliance? The Quixotic Quartet? PTE?”

    Nathan shrugged. “They showed up with local capes soon after to help with the fallout. After the aliens vanished.”

    “It wasn’t long before all those ships had disappeared after that tornado,” Tiffany said. “Maybe the other hero groups were busy and it’s not like PTE works for the government.”

    “Still, you’d think they would have people on hand,” I said. “Earth has been invaded how many times in the last three years?”

    I thought back to the time Ravensworth was enveloped by a swarm of thousands of biomorphic robots and large humanoid machines. The whole world was really, we didn’t learn until much later that our planet had been invaded by a race androids. I wasn’t too sure about the details but somehow our heroes were able to fight them off and prevail. The ex-villain, Lightspeed—known as the Red Haired Flash at the time—came into prominence, turning the tide of battle.

    I was in middle school then. I still remembered how terrified my sister and I were as Dad and Mom hurried us to one of the underground shelters.

    “They’re probably busy protecting the President after the Vader clusterfuck,” Nathan said.

    I frowned. That was the name of the alien that attacked the Washington D.C. last year, leaving the city in shambles. Vader had brought an entire army from space to invade the white house, taking the President hostage and murdering the entire cabinet. Heroes and villains were forced to work together to stop him, criminals that were released from the Oubliette were promised pardons if they helped fight. Vader was eventually killed in the ongoing battle, but we were still rebuilding to this day, with all the destruction caused.

    I skimmed through more forum posts my mood feeling somewhat off, I paused as a picture caught my eye. Someone had taken it from a rooftop. It was fuzzy, no doubt due the all the commotion, but I could see faint outlines of a humanoid lion and dragon facing each other, a group of warriors behind each. Now that was interesting.

    I edged forward toward the screen with a squint, my finger gliding across the dragon. He wore blood-red armor that was sleeveless, his arms as dark as charcoal. He was absolutely ruthless, his jaws covered in blood. His tail and horns were even bigger than Ashley’s.

    “That dragon… I’ve seen him before. In my dreams. Are they from Avalon?”

    “Wait, is that… the dragon king?” Tiffany asked.

    “Yeah,” Terra said. “That’s Dusk. Behind him are his Empire Knights.”

    Nathan examined my screen, his face too difficult to read. “Dusk, huh?”

    “Empire Knights…” I winced and massaged my temples. I tried to get a better look at the armored woman next to king-emperor. Her hair was rich wine color. I was reminded of a girl with vampire teeth. “And that’s…”

    “Felicia Shinso,” Terra said, getting a better look. “The Third Princess of the Duskanian Empire, The Knights’ second in command.”

    “Princess?” Tiffany asked. “Is everyone you know royalty?”

    “Tiff, that’s has to be the vampire girl I told you about.”

    “Really? Hey, look at this.” Tiffany pointed toward a winged figure in the air with a group of soldiers further on behind Dusk’s knights. “You said you had a guy with wings in those dreams too right?”

    “Hmm. I can’t tell, it’s too hard to see. That could be anybody.”

    “That’s Maximilian Millis, the Fifth Duskanian Prince,” Terra explained. “He’s not blood-related to Dusk like Felicia though.”

    “How does that work?” Nathan asked.

    “It’s an honorary title.” Terra glanced at me. “If you saw Felicia in those visions, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say he was there as well.”

    “They were shorter than that, younger. Is Maximilian a knight too?”

    Terra shook his head. “Nope, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets knighted soon. He’s got the skills to pay the bills.”

    Tiffany pointed at the lion leading the group opposing Dusk and his knights on the opposite side. “Terra, is that the Fireclaw guy you were talking about?”

    “Yeah. That’s Kimba Fireclaw, he’s leading the Saviors.”

    The majestic lion man stood tall in front of his soldiers, a blade in hand. His golden fur and his long reddish-brown mane were so captivating.

    “Is that a hero group?” Nathan asked.

    “In a way. The Saviors are Kimba’s personal task force,” Terra said. “A bit like the Empire Knights but they’re not as hard-ass. They don’t really hold territory, they’re separate from Guardian’s main military.”

    “So he’s the leader of Guardian…” I muttered. I hadn’t seen him in any of the dreams I had but I knew he was important. How did all these pieces fit together? I read some of the comments underneath the picture. People were posting the usual conspiracies about how aliens had secretly taken control of the world again. “What were they here for?”

    “They were looking for something. Someone.” Terra said. “On Avalon, Kimba and Dusk have been fighting each other in wars for ages, millennia. Dusk wants to rule the entire planet but Kimba is fighting for the sovereignty or Guardian and the other free nations.”

    “Talk about sibling rivalry,” Tiffany said.

    “They’re related?” Nathan asked. “What the hell makes a dragon and a lion?”

    “It’s a long story. Kimba, Dusk, and their other siblings were born from the Vanguard. She was the first Valterian ever created,” Terra said. “When you hold the genetics of all species in your DNA, it doesn’t really matter who the father is.”

    “That explains it,” I said. “All the Valterians we know about so far look different from one another.”

    “That doesn’t mean that all of them came from the Vanguard. The Elder Gods created many Valterian races after her.”

    “Nature…” I murmured.

    “Who now?” Nathan asked.

    “Death and Karma too,” Terra said. He glanced at Nathan. “Ashley and Ms. Frazzle didn’t tell you about them?”

    Nathan seemed perturbed. “No.”

    “Wait—hold up,” Tiffany said. “Before we go off on that tangent. Back to the first thing. Why exactly did they come here?”

    “I’m getting to that.” Terra paused for a moment. “Did I tell you guys about my cousin?”

    Terra mentioned that lived with his aunt and uncle before, they had a nephew a bit older than him. I wasn’t sure how that was relevant as Terra told us that family had adopted him. They weren’t from Avalon like he was.

    “He’s the reason. Both sides wanted him.”

    “He has powers?” Nathan asked.

    “Yeah, but Trinity told me they wanted my cuz for his potential.”

    “That’s not the only reason.” Heels clacked on the floor behind our little ensemble, causing us to turn around. Ms. Frazzle was glancing over us, examining my computer screen, a stack of papers in hand. “Sounds like guys are having such an interesting discussion over here!” She handed each of us a sheet. “How are you coming along?”

    I took a glance at the paper. It was a basic research guide.

    “What do you know about Davis?” Terra asked her, getting straight to the point.

    Ms. Frazzle dropped her cheerful mask, her lips thinning. “So that’s his name? Good to know.”

    “You didn’t answer the question.”

    Ms. Frazzle frowned at Terra and he assessed her right back. With a slight turn of the head, Ms. Frazzle observed the rest of the class, a long pause before facing us again.

    “Terra, you know that’s no way to talk to your teacher, but I’ll let it slide for now,” she said. “Anyway, there is a high possibility that your cousin possesses a Fallen Star.”

    Terra actually seemed surprised.

    “I scouted the area after things died down,” Ms. Frazzle said. “There was a lot of vapor concentrated in that atmosphere and interwoven in the ground, it was reminiscent of an unbounded eternal realm.”

    “What did you figure out?” Terra asked.

    “That cyclone that we saw? It wasn’t a one. Not really. It was a singularity, activated by the Fallen Star. Your cousin opened a pathway back to Avalon and it sucked him in and everything near it.”

    “You learned that using your magic?”

    “That and by stealing some confidential footage from SIGMA.” Ms. Frazzle glanced away like she was embarrassed. “The footage wasn’t that helpful for seeing what happened toward the end of that mess, I had to go there physically and use memory projection.”

    Terra nodded. “For him to have something like that…”

    “The portal to Avalon may still be accessible,” Ms. Frazzle said. “Maybe that’s why SIGMA has been quiet about it.”

    I felt so lost. “What’s a Fallen Star—”

    I stopped, noticing Tiffany and my friends staring at the girl that appeared behind Ms. Frazzle. Katherine. She was shocked, her mouth open.

    “…do you need help, Katherine?” Ms. Frazzle asked, just realizing that she was standing next to her.

    Katherine’s lips moved like she wanted to speak, but no words would come out. She closed her mouth.

    “Is something wrong?”

    Ms. Frazzle’s question jolted Katherine out of her stupor. Katherine stared at us and then our teacher. “N-nothing… I just—I wanted to know if I could use the restroom.”

    “Sure,” Ms. Frazzle urged her on. “Go ahead.”

    Katherine left the classroom in a hurry without another word, almost bumping into a classmate sitting at the computers next to the entrance.

    “Damn. How much did she hear?” asked Nathan.

    “Probably everything?” Tiffany said.

    “I don’t think so,” Terra said. “She just got up.”

    Ms. Frazzle studied the doorway that Katherine had just bulldozed her way through. She was frowning. “I wonder…”

    Anxiety rose in my gut as I bit my lip. Did Katherine think all of us were capes?

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; August 14th, 2018 at 01:49 PM.
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  19. #19
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Venom II

    “Thinking about dating any other guys?” Lorie asked me as we walked down the corridor full of students. “I can’t believe you’re still single.”

    Our first period had finished and Tiffany and I found ourselves walking with the rest of our friends; the eight of us followed Ashley to her locker, our daily routine. We had a couple of minutes before homeroom started and we’d often congregate around Ashley’s locker to socialize before going to our separate classes.

    “I told you, I’m taking a break from dating.”

    “But come on, you’ve been so down in the dumps ever since—” Lorie stopped herself as if she needed to rethink her words, “—since you and Timothy didn’t work out.”

    I rolled my eyes, a faint feeling of anger rising in my body. “Thanks for bringing it up again, Lorie. Is dating another guy right after one broke my heart supposed to fix me?”

    “I’m just saying though, taking the plunge and putting yourself back out there is what you need. Derrick wants to go out with you, you know that right? Why don’t you get him to spoil you a little?”

    “We don’t all date new boys every month like you do, Lorie,” I said. Derrick was a jerk anyway.

    “Emmy, that is so untrue.”

    “Is that why you’re currently talking to three guys?” Tiffany asked, causing the others to laugh.

    Lorie scowled. “I don’t want to her that from our school’s resident flirter. You’d probably sleep with any guy in our group.”

    “Terra was my first and he’ll be my last,” Tiffany said with a sharp smile, remaining calm as she turned to look forward. “We’re going to get married, have five kids, and live happily ever after.”

    “Did she just say, five kids?”

    “That’s crazy. Way too many.”

    “It’ll be perfect,” Tiffany said. “Right Ems?”

    I snorted in disbelief causing Tiffany to glare at me.

    Brittany, who was closet to Lorie, giggled. “It’ll be okay Ems, You’ll find your prince charming one day. We’ll pray for you.”

    Tiffany turned in my direction. “Don’t worry, Ems, at least you’re not dating Dillion.”

    Brittany scoffed, as Tiffany mentioned her boyfriend. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    Tiffany gave her a smile that I could only describe as sickeningly sweet. “I’m just saying he wouldn’t be right for Mercy.”

    “That’s not what you’re saying.”

    “It’s not? Please, enlighten me.”

    “Okay, Grace Theophania Gaunt,” Brittany said, causing Tiffany to cringe, “I will. You’re still jealous that he wanted to go out with me, instead of you.”

    “Don’t freaking call me that!” Tiffany snapped. “I fucking hate it when you do that. And I’m more than happy with my boyfriend, thank you very much. Eighth grade was a century ago.”

    “That’s right you’re into girly guys now.”

    “Terra’s actual classification is pretty boy, there is a difference.”

    Brittany rolled her eyes.

    “I don’t see why you hate your name so much,” Rika said to Tiffany. She had to turn her head to face us since she was walking side-by-side with Ashley. “I like it. It goes together with Mercy’s.”

    “Mercy and Grace has a nice ring to it,” Ashley agreed.

    For as long as I could remember, Tiffany refused to answer to her first name. My parents never understood why but it never bothered me. Intuitively, I knew how she felt about it. She would always be my inseparable twin, no matter what name she went by.

    “It doesn’t fit me.”

    “And Theophania does?” Nicole asked, breaking away from her conversation with Diana.

    “The variation does,” Tiffany said. “I don’t know what my parents were thinking, giving me that middle name.” She cowered behind me with her head down, pretending to shield herself from the judging gazes of our friends. “So embarrassing.”

    I remembered when my sister started to go by the name of Tiffany, it was some time after an asshole made fun of her in middle school. A teacher had come up with the nickname and Tiffany fell in love with it.

    “There, there, ” I said patting my sister gently. “It’ll be okay.”

    “Alright. Back to cute boys,” Diana said, her voice uncharacteristically chirpy as she attempted to change the topic. “What do you guys think about Eric?”

    “You think Eric is cute?” Lorie asked. “You’re so scandalous!”

    What? He is.”

    “I can’t,” Lorie said. “I just can’t.”

    “Actually, I kinda agree with Diana. He has a cute face, but… that still leaves a lot to be desired, ” Tonya said. “But Michael though, he’s hot.”

    Tonya’s statement about the athletic upperclassman drew some murmured agreements from the group.

    “Michael is already dating Allison,” Lorie said.

    Screw Allison. I can’t stand her,” Tonya said.

    I frowned. Is that why you’re always seen acting chummy with her before fourth period?

    “She always blabbing about her daddy issues,” Tonya said. “Complaining about her parents all the time and all the nasty shit her brother does. It’s like I don’t need to know all that, TMI.”

    “Well, I’m glad Tyler is perfect,” Lorie said. “You don’t know what it’s like to be a guy that actually acts right.”

    “You’re not even dating him,” Tiffany said.

    “It’s called taking a break, have you heard of it?”

    “If you want to call it that.”

    “Enough,” Ashley said before Lorie could respond, looking exasperated. We had reached her locker. As she started to remove books from the compartment, the others resumed their own private conversations.

    “Sooooo…” Lorie stood next to Tiffany and faced me. “Who else do you like?”

    I sighed. “Oh my god, Lorie.”

    “Nathan?” Diana offered, entering our conversation.

    Lorie’s face lit up with giddiness as if she learned one of my most personal deep and dark secrets. “Oh? I didn’t know you like black guys. I couldn’t date one.”

    What—Nathan is just a friend!”

    Nathan was a good guy and I liked him, but I didn’t ‘like him’ like him.

    “He does walk you to class every day,” Rika said.

    Rika, how could you? I glanced at Rika, betrayed. She shrugged.

    Aww…” Brittany teased. “So cute. Don’t you just love it? I bet you wanna run your hands through his hair, touch his waves. Feel his dark chocolate skin…”

    My eyes sealed shut and I could feel the blood rushing to my face.

    “Brittany, really?” Tiffany asked.

    “She’s not denying it.”

    Before I could refute Brittany, Katherine approached us. Ashley had noticed first as she was already facing the middle of the hallway, ready to move after finishing with her locker. Naturally, our gazes followed as she inspected the raven-haired girl in silence. I thought about Katherine eavesdropping on our conversation in English class. How much did she hear? Would she reveal anything?

    “Katherine,” Ashley said. “Can I help you?”

    “…back,” Katherine muttered, looking down.

    “Excuse me?”

    Katherine visibly struggled with herself then walked a bit closer, standing in front of Rika. “Give it back.”

    Rika gave Katherine a bland look of indifference. “Give what back? What the fuck are you talking about Yanagi?”

    “You took something from her?” Ashley asked.

    “No. She’s fucking losing it.”

    “Lair!” Katherine gaze was downcast again, but not before I caught sight of the tears starting to run down her face. My heart started to ache.

    “Oh my god,” Lorie said, with a giggle. “I think you broke her, Rika.”

    “She was born broken,” Rika said, sneering. “What’s the wrong Yanagi? Don’t you know that it’s rude to accuse people of shit they didn’t do?”

    Katherine remained mute, unable to look up.

    “Such a weirdo,” Brittany hissed while looking at Katherine, disgusted.

    When Katherine didn’t respond, Rika stepped forward, towering over her. “I think you should apologize.”

    Katherine glanced up with her tearful face, confused. “What…?”

    “Yeah, I agree,” Diana said, with a faint smile. “Coming at Rika like that.”

    “She should apologize for being a freaking creep,” Tonya said.

    “Don’t be so mean, guys, she probably wants to say she’s sorry for causing all that drama from before,” Nicole said, referring to the time we kicked her out of our group. “I mean just look at her… Kathy just can’t help being a loser.”

    Most of our friends chuckled in agreement but my sister wasn’t amused and I felt horrible. Ashley met the eyes of me and my sister and then she gave Katherine a searching look.

    “That’s enough,” she ordered in a forceful voice, cutting through the laughter. I noticed Lorie and the others hesitant to say anything as Ashley emitted a slither of energy from her invisible yet still majestic aura. Ashley turned away from Katherine to face the group. “Come on, it’s time for us to go to class.”

    We did as Ashley ordered, some girls whispering and talking in hushed voices as we passed Katherine while sneaking glances at her—entertained by her distress. I couldn’t bear to look her direction; the guilt was tying my stomach in knots. Our group went our separate ways, Diana following me and my sister back to Ms. Frazzle’s class.

    As we entered homeroom, I notice Nathan and Terra were sitting at their desks chatting. The boys glanced up and Nathan waved to greet us. I gave them a hesitant smile, waiting in the doorway as my sister stepped further inside. I peered back into the hall, my thoughts still on Katherine.

    “What’s wrong?” Tiffany asked.

    “I… I need to check on Katherine,” I said. “I need to see if she’s okay.”

    I had left Katherine all alone to deal with the bullying of our bitch squad… too afraid to speak up and do anything about it for fear of being ostracized myself. But this couldn’t go on. It almost like Katherine’s suffering was hurting me. I had to do something.

    Tiffany frowned at me but didn’t argue. “Okay. I’m going with you.”

    We left the classroom a second letter without giving the boys a chance to ask what was going on. The both of us scampered toward Ashley’s locker, part of me wondering if Katherine would still be standing there. She wasn’t, of course, but we found out from a few classmates in the hall that she went the bathroom.

    “So you’ve finally decided you want to talk to her again,” Tiffany said as we walked closer to the bathroom entrance. “Why the change of heart?”

    I shook my head, thinking about the small girl that looked like Katherine in my dreams. “I don’t know. I’m not sure what we can do about the girls being mean. But maybe… If I talk to her, we can figure something out. At least I can help her with whatever she was upset about. It’s the least I could do.”

    Tiffany seemed doubtful. “She’ll be angry,” she warned.

    I didn’t care. “And I accept that. She has every right to be.” I paused before pushing on the bathroom door.

    “Worried?” Tiffany asked.

    “A little. But not just of Katherine.”

    “You worried about what Rika and the other girls will think? So what?”

    “It’s just—I feel like if we try to become friends with Katherine again, it will cause a lot of drama and I don’t want to deal with it. It would be us versus everyone else and it will tear our group apart. Everyone will blame us. I bet that’s why Ashely turns a blind eye to them picking on her. Because she knows that’s how it will turn out. “

    Tiffany stopped me from entering the restroom, her arm baring me as she looked me dead in the eye. “So fucking what? You think Ashley actually gives a damn about what they do or don’t do? She’s a god, Mercy. If you wanna do this seriously, then we do this seriously. No half-assing. We’re going to stop Katherine from being messed with because it’s the right to do, with or without Ashley’s help—regardless of the consequences. If the girls have a problem, they can fuck off.”

    Unable think of anything to say, I nodded. Katherine’s shrill scream sounded from a stall as we entered the restroom, causing us to pause. Katherine started to sob.

    “Kill them! Hate you!” she cried, her words not making any sense. “I’m going to kill them all.”

    My sister and I shared a cautious glance. Katherine calmed down, her painful sobs reduced to light sniffles. She exited the furthermost stall, drifting toward the sink like a zombie. Katherine was looking at herself in the dirty mirror when I called out to her.

    “Katherine,” I said, in a soft voice. “Are you okay?”

    Katherine’s head snapped in our direction, her mouth opens in shock. Long strands of hair covered her face making her expression hard to see, but I could tell her eyes and cheeks were red from crying. She backed away from us, looking like a wounded animal.

    “S-stay away, stay away from me!” she shouted.

    That familiar filling of guilt throbbed inside me.

    “Hey, calm down,” Tiffany said, hands out in a placating manner. “We’re not gonna do anything.”

    “And you expect me to believe that? After everything you’ve done to me?”

    “Be more specific, I don’t recall me or Mercy ever doing or saying something mean to you.”

    “Don’t be stupid,” Katherine said, her sharp voice laced with resentment. “I know you’ve been talking about me behind my back, you agree with them.”

    Where did she hear that from? Lorie? I tugged on the sleeve to Tiffany’s coat, stopping her from responding back. She gave me a questioning look but she let me step forward.

    “I know you’re angry, Katherine,” I said. “We just want to help you.”

    “Help me?” she asked, bitterly. “Like when you ignored me every time I tried to talk to you after Rika started picking on me?”

    I sighed. “Did Rika take something from you? What was it? Maybe we can get it back.”

    “Why the hell should I trust you?”

    “You don’t have to,” Tiffany said. “But do you really have a choice?”

    Tiffany,” I said, her tone making me feel a bit cross.

    “My diary.” Katherine was quiet as she refused to look at me. “She took it.”

    That didn’t sound good. Rika was probably planning to announce it to the girls before or during our lunch period. Reading Katherine’s diary out loud to humiliate her was something Rika would jump at the chance of doing.

    “Shit,” I muttered. “When did it happen?”

    Katherine shook her head. “Earlier, before first period. Don’t you remember?”

    I didn’t. When I was at my locker then, I saw Rika and some of the boys in the hallway, but I didn’t stay long enough watch them pounce on Katherine. I didn’t want to get involved. She still must have noticed.

    “They stole my book bag. It fell out when I tripped and Rika stole it before I could do anything.”

    “They took everything?” Tiffany asked.

    “Not my book bag. They let me have it after they got bored, but Rika left.”

    I frowned. They must have toyed with her for minutes. I bet it felt like an eternity to her. Pity welled up in my chest.

    “We’ll get your diary from Rika,” I promised.

    Katherine faced me, resigned. Like she had no choice but to accept our help.

    “Why?” she asked.

    “What do you mean?” I asked confused.

    “Why do want to help me now?!”

    I steeled myself, ready to take on the brunt of her blame and anger. “Because it’s the right thing to do,” I said. “Tiff and I, we never wanted to see you like this. And I… never meant to hurt you. I was afraid.”

    Katherine seemed mystified. “Afraid?”

    “Yeah. I didn’t want them to turn on me for being friends with you after Rika got angry at you. I didn’t want to ruin the rest of our clique. But… even though I want to deny it, part of me… didn’t want to hang out with you anymore.”

    Katherine swallowed, hard.

    “Ems…” I could feel Tiffany’s hand on my shoulder.

    “It’s hard to explain. I don’t hate you, Katherine. It’s… I know I’m being irrational but, deep down, for some reason, I blamed you for causing the small rift between us and our friends. For being such an easy target for Rika, letting her mess with you. I blamed you for not putting in the effort to fit in with us more.” I shook my head. “I was stupid and… I’m sorry.”

    Tears started to run down her face. “I’ll never forgive you.”

    “That’s okay. If you will allow me to be your friend again, I can accept that.”

    I could hear two girls getting closer to the bathroom, their voices getting louder as they approached. A familiar laugh. Katherine froze, she was going to say something but her mouth clamped shut.

    “I thought I saw couple familiar faces coming in here…” Brittany said as she entered the bathroom with Rika by her side, trailing off when she noticed Katherine.

    Rika sneered, realizing what caught Brittany off guard. “Well, well, well, what the fuck do we have here?”

    “Rika,” I said, getting her attention. “Stop it.”

    Both Rika and Brittany were surprised. “Don’t tell me your feeling sorry for this twerp,” Rika said.

    “Her diary,” Tiffany said. “Are you going to give it back?”

    Rika tried to hide her annoyance, but it was still visible on her face. “Sure. After homeroom. My teacher doesn’t let us out of class more than once.”

    I couldn’t tell with Britanny was thinking, but she went along with Rika as she left the restroom. I guess Rika was too offended by us defending Katherine. She would have to deal with it.

    “…Thanks,” Katherine muttered before leaving, soon after.

    “Well that didn’t go too bad,” I said, glancing at my sister.

    “Yeah, we’ll see.”

    Homeroom went by in a blur. I couldn’t really get into the conversation Nathan was having with Terra and Tiffany, about Ms. Frazzle’s and Ashley’s powers. About how they practically live with him—visiting his home every day without his parents knowing. I would be normally be intrigued by such juicy convo material, but I was focused on Katherine. Would Rika give up her diary just like that? She was always stubborn.

    I walked back to my locker with Nathan and my sister, not only to get my stuff for Algebra II but to keep an eye out for Katherine. She walked by in hurry to get to her locker, but she wasn’t fast enough. Though it wouldn’t seem like it someone else, I could tell most of our posse—Rika, Tonya, Brittany, and Lorie were hot on her tail, strolling behind her while talking. Pretending like they weren’t focused on Katherine at all.

    “Oh shit,” Nathan said, as he zeroed in on the girls enclosing her. Katherine was trapped within a nest of snakes. I saw Rika with a book a hand. It was brown with a golden design. Elegant. It was similar to a grimoire. That had to be Katherine’s diary.

    “Check out this book I found,” Rika said, addressing the girls like Katherine wasn’t even there.

    “Looks like a diary,” Lorie said. “But since it was laying on the floor in the hallway, whoever owned it doesn’t seem to want it anymore.”

    “Really?” Tonya asked. “Then why don’t we take look.”

    Rika opened the book and started to flip through the first few pages. Katherine started to shake, unable to face them. I hurried over, moving faster than Nathan who followed to help.

    “Let’s see,” Rika said. “September Eighteenth, twenty thirteen,” Rika adjusted her voice to sound more girly. “I hate school, I hate everyone there, the only thing I can stand is physics.”

    “Such a nerd,” Lorie called out.

    “Mr. Thompson is nice. Sometimes.” Amused, Rika paused looking around at the other girls for effect. “I used to think he was a jerk, he was mean and everyone was making a big deal about him. But at least he was kind enough to give me private lessons.” Rika raised her raised her eyebrows. “Well now, would you look at that.”

    “Oooh, looks like somebody’s getting it on with the new physics teacher!”

    “Wow, and I expected Mr. Thompson to actually have standards.”

    I heard enough. Pushing my way past Brittany I tried to snatch the diary away from Rika. She raised it over my head as I practically tried to climb her like a tree to get it.

    “Mercy, what the fuc—“

    Rika was caught off guard as Nathan took it from her grip.

    “What are you doing?” Rika looked like she couldn’t believe what just happened.

    “Making things right,” I said. “When you said you would give her diary back this isn't what I had in mind.”

    “You’ve always been a buzzkill, Mercy. I don’t know how Tiffany deals with it. Probably why Tim dumped your ass.”

    Ah. My mouth dropped; I was taken aback. Verbally, Rika punched me straight in the gut. I couldn’t believe she would go that far.

    “Hey!” Tiffany exclaimed, standing beside me. “You better watch yourself Rika. I’ve had about enough of your attitude.”

    “And I had about enough of your bullshit.”

    Things were getting heated; Tiffany and Rika were moments away from getting into a catfight. This was what I was afraid of.

    “Why are you guys defending this loser?” Brittany asked.

    “She’s not a loser, she’s my friend,” I said, resolute. I stepped to Rika. “Your bullying of Katherine stops. Now.”

    --

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    Last edited by Fluxx; August 21st, 2018 at 10:04 AM.
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  20. #20
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    Bae, Ask About Me

    At my words, Rika’s frown twisted into a defiant scowl.

    “You-”

    “What’s going on here?” Ashley’s voice called out, cutting Rika off. It felt ominous as she sauntered toward us with Terra in tow. The crowded hallway became quiet, the loud chattering of our classmates turned into quiet whispers as Ashley passed by them, only the clap of her boots against the ground could be heard. “What are you guys doing, making a scene out here like this?”

    I shivered a little, a hint of fear rising within me. Ashley’s aura, when turned on me, made me feel tense—even though I could tell she was constricting most of it to her body. Making a scene were we? If anything, Ashley’s appearance now would exacerbate the conflict. No one was really paying attention until she shouted from across the hall.

    Tentative, Rika was the first to speak. “We were just—”

    “Finishing something that should have been handled a while back,” Terra cut in.

    “What?” Ashley gave Terra a questioning glance.

    “We’re tired of you guys picking on Katherine,” Tiffany explained. “This has gone on long enough.”

    Ashley frowned. “If you had a problem you should have come to me, privately,” she said. “We don’t air out everything in front of the entire school. You know that.”

    Entire school? People were watching, but it’s not like the everyone would know of our group’s infighting. Well, not yet. That would change by the start of the next class period.

    Tiffany gave a dry laugh. “Yeah, too late for that. If you handled shit like promised, we wouldn’t be here.”

    “What’s your problem?” Lorie asked, stopping when Ashley raised a hand.

    Ashley evaluated Tiffany for a minute before her gaze shifted to me. “Are you sure you’re talking about Katherine?”

    I bit my lip. I knew what she was getting at. Pain started to bubble up inside me, as I thought about my ex.

    Tiffany glared at her. “Who knows? After how many times you’ve given us your word, I’ve lost count.”

    “We were getting Katherine’s diary back from Rika,” I said, speaking up—more than happy to move on to something else. I didn’t want them to bring up Timothy. Not here. Besides, there was no telling what Ashley would do if Tiffany pissed her off enough.

    Ashley gave Rika a look. I could tell she was angry but she kept her emotions tightly under control, her expression mostly blank—the only thing revealing her dissatisfaction was her deepening frown and thin lips.

    “She stole it from me,” Katherine spat, her voice filled with resentment.

    “It was a joke, we were messing around,” Rika said, annoyed. “She dropped it with her book bag earlier. We were going to give it back.”

    Ashley’s gaze slowly changed from annoyance to disappointment. “You lied to me, Rika.”

    Rika wanted to say something else, but before she could defend herself, Ms. Frazzle made her way toward us.

    “Shouldn’t you all be headed to class?” Ms. Frazzle asked, impassively glancing at each of us. Observing the hallway, she gave a stern look at some of the other students that were eavesdropping and hanging around nearby. She shooed them away. “That goes for all you, go to class!”

    “Now,” returning her attention to our group, she asked, “What’s all the commotion about?”

    Everyone was quiet, most of the girls sneaking worried glances at each other before turning to Ashley, hoping she would come to our rescue.

    “Don’t tell me you girls were harming a student again,” Ms. Frazzle said. “After I explicitly warned you.”

    Ashley sighed, moving from away Terra to stand in front of us and the rest of the girls—shielding us from Ms. Frazzle’s growing wrath. “We… were in the process of returning Katherine her diary.”

    Ms. Frazzle seemed mildly surprised. “Oh really? I wonder about that, Ashley. Considering how I’ve seen you and your friends treat Katherine before, I’m hard-pressed to believe it.”

    “Believe what you want.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “You’re always sticking your nose in student affairs. I’m handling it.”

    “Sounds like you wouldn’t mind handling a detention, either.”

    “It’s true, professor,” I said, getting their attention. I didn’t want Ashley and Ms. Frazzle to start arguing in the middle of the hallway, where everyone could see. “We were just handing it back.”

    Ms. Frazzle paused at my admission, briefly looking me, Tiffany, and Nathan over. She noticed the book in Nathan’s hand. “Alright… Fine. Give Katherine her diary and get to class.” She evaluated the others. “That goes for all of you. No lollygagging.”

    “Aye aye, teach,” Terra said with a smirk, as Lorie, Brittany, Diana, and the other girls scampered away—getting out of dodge. Ashley remained in place though, giving Ms. Frazzle a calculated look.

    Rika shoved me as she elbowed past, bashing into my arm. She didn’t do it hard enough to knock me over, mind you, but it still hurt. “This isn’t over,” she whispered.

    “Wanna bet?” Tiffany whispered back with a snarl. Before she could chase Rika down, I grabbed her wrist, holding her in place. Though she looked back with a frown, I simply shook my head.

    Nathan took the time to give Katherine here diary back, being gentle with the book as he handed it to her. “Sorry about that. Here you go.”

    Katherine accepted it from him, holding it close to her chest. “Thank you… Thank you.”

    Ms. Frazzle eyed her, carefully. “Are you alright?”

    “I am… now I am.”

    “Good.” Ms. Frazzle gave us all one last look before she left, telling off Ashley about her attitude and urging her to go to class. She warned the rest of us that we better be seated in her class within the next five minutes.

    “Thanks.” Katherine faced us, sniffling. “For sticking up for me.”

    “No problem,” Nathan said.

    I put a hand on Katherine’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “I wanna give you a hug. Can I do that?”

    Katherine huffed with the hint of a smile and then nodded in acceptance.

    “C’mere.” I wrapped my arms around her in a tight embrace. Katherine let out a choked sob. Tiffany stood by my side, rubbing Katherine’s back in support. After a moment, I let go, Katherine removing herself from my grasp. I could see tears welling up in her eyes.

    She wiped them away, giving me a broken yet happy smile. I smiled back.

    Tiffany smiled as well. “Well, I’m glad that’s been dealt with.”

    “I wouldn’t be so sure,” Nathan said. “This is probably gonna cause a huge shitstorm during lunch.”

    Terra chuckled. “It’s nothing Ashley can’t handle.”

    Ashley seemed amused. “What makes you think I’ll do anything at all?”

    Nathan snorted. “If Rika and the others start some bullshit, it’s going to cause hell for you. Trust me. And I know you wouldn’t allow anything to ruin your ‘perfect and pristine’ social image.” Nathan smirked. “What would you do without your group of followers?”

    Ashley waved him off. “Please. I was getting tired of the little status games we play here anyway. Most of the people that associate with us are absolutely boring.” She sighed. “It might be fun to watch as our little clique implodes on itself.”

    Tiffany made a sound annoyance and folded her arms. “You know, that’s just like you. To have such a shitty personality.”

    Ashley gave her a nasty smile. “I could say the same for you.”

    Ashley didn’t wait for a response. Instead, she left us, walking to her homeroom. I frowned as she strode off, all of us looking at her back in silence.

    oOo


    Done with math class, I found myself in the girl’s restroom washing my hands as I prepared for lunch. We agreed on doing something a little different today; we were inviting Katherine to eat with us at our secret spot on the school roof. Okay, it wasn’t a secret, but we really weren’t supposed to be there and the forbidden element of it added a little excitement. Nathan wanted to walk there together, but I told him to go on ahead. Hopefully, he along with Terra and my sister would nab some food from the cafe before I met with them. I dried my hands, the soft paper from the dispenser feeling pleasant against my skin as I rubbed them dry. With a flick of the wrists, I removed the access water from my hands and made my way out.

    “Mercy,” Ashely called out, spotting me exit the bathroom as I entered the hallway filled with students heading to the cafe. She was alone, our other friends nowhere to be seen. “Walk with me.”

    Was she waiting for me? I didn’t see her around before I entered the bathroom. “I was planning on eating with Tiffany and the guys, on the rooftop.”

    “You know we’re not allowed up there.”

    “Yeah… but we wanted to eat with Katherine and she doesn’t feel comfortable eating in the cafeteria yet.”

    “That’s understandable…” Ashley trailed off. “I think I’ll join you then.”

    I hummed, thinking of the reactions of the rest of the girls. “What about everyone else?”

    “They can live without me for a day.”

    We walked together at a slow pace, with me leading the way slightly.

    “Say, Mercy, what do you think of me?”

    “Hm?”

    “What do you think of me? You can be honest.”

    “You mean personality wise?”

    I wondered if she was thinking about what Tiffany said.

    Ashley nodded. “Do you think of me as a sociopathic tyrant, one that doesn’t care for those that she presides over?”

    “Not really.” I frowned as we continued to walk, glancing up and away in an aimless manner to buy some time as I thought of the best way to answer her. “I mean… you can be kinda arrogant at times. I get it, with you being a ruler of a nation and a Valterian dragon god of the world and all, but…”

    “I’m not the god of this world. Here, I’m only a simple girl.” Ashley chuckled. “But I understand what you mean. My older sister would often say the same.”

    “Is that the same one you were talking about before, the one that learned from Kazuya with you?”

    “Yes.”

    “What’s she like?”

    Ashley took in a deep breath while looking up in thought, away from me. It was hard for me to guess what she was feeling. “Arden is… courageous, dutiful, a being with the strongest will I have ever seen. The current king of Valteria.”

    “Wait a minute. King?”

    “Yes, king.”

    “Shouldn’t she be the queen?”

    “It’s a traditional title, bestowed upon her by father because he acknowledges her strength. Her power. She is only the second person to ever receive it. She holds that title out of respect, regardless of its masculine nature.”

    I gave Ashley a thoughtful glance, warmth budding in my chest. I’d never seen her talk about someone in such a heartfelt way before. “You sound pretty fond of her, you must love her a lot.”

    Ashley scoffed. “Don’t speak of something you know nothing about. Do I love her? Love… hate… those words are too simple to describe the relationship we have. It’s not like yours with Tiffany.”

    We talked for a little while longer, the hallways and stairwells now empty making the school seem like a ghost town. We reached the roof, our friends sitting down near the fence at the edge. Both Tiffany and Nathan both held a lunch tray in their lap, Terra had his sandwich in hand. Someone important was missing.

    “Where is Katherine?” Ashley asked as we moved closer to the trio.

    Nathan shrugged. “I told her where we were going to have lunch here, but I guess she didn’t want to come. I couldn’ t find her anywhere after class.”

    “Really? Shame.”

    Tiffany glanced up from where she was sitting, next to Terra. “Ems!” She handed me an extra turkey sandwich from her tray along with a bottle of water. “I can’t believe you managed to drag our perfect queen all the way up here.”

    I sat down next to her Indian style before digging in.

    “I was in the mood for a different kind of atmosphere,” Ashley said, curling the end of a strand of hair with a finger. “Besides, now I can talk to Terra seriously.”

    Terra took a bite of his sandwich. “What up?”

    “Let’s talk Avalon matters. The witch told me about your cousin, that he had a Fallen Star and used its power to go to Avalon during the battle between the Guardian and Duskan forces in New York. Are you still in contact with him?”

    Irritation flickered in my the chest at the way Ashley referred to our teacher. Supposedly, Ms. Frazzle was a witch, but I didn’t like the venom I heard in Ashley’s voice.

    Terra paused from eating, unassuming. “All know is that he made it out of the battle, okay and that he’s safe and sound with Guardian.” He took another bite of his sandwich. “How about you?” he asked, his mouth full. He swallowed. “How’s Artisans?”

    “My country is fine. Doesn’t that woman keep you up to date?”

    “Trinity isn’t really focused on your country at the moment.”

    “Hmm, that’s debatable.”

    “Seriously, you have bigger problems down south. BRIM is making moves, they might make a big one soon.”

    “I’m well aware.”

    “I’d expect you to be. Just saying.” Terra’s lips cured into a smirk. “I have another cousin on Avalon, you know.”

    “From BRIM, I presume?”

    “How perceptive. His name is Roman. Roman Hatchell.”

    Ashley’s eyes widened. “BRIM’s third strongest Elite Guard?”

    “And he happens to the brother of Davis.”

    Ashley took a moment to parse the info Terra dropped on her.

    “Mind sharing with the rest of the class?” Nathan asked, glancing between both of them.

    “Yeah,” Tiffany agreed, giving Terra and Ashley an odd look. “What the hell is BRIM?”

    Ashley walked over to fence at the edge of the rooftop and she leaned on it, close to where Terra was sitting by Tiffany. She examined the school grounds below like she was looking for someone before facing us. “BRIM is a human country on Avalon, close to Artisans. It was formed sometime after the first great war. Or the first Human-Monster war as they like to call it.”

    “Human-Monster war?” I asked.

    “It was a different time, thousands of years ago. The humans on Avalon were at constant war with rest of the Avalonians. War threatened to destroy the planet until, we—the Valterians intervened.” Ashley laughed. “The Elder Gods wouldn’t let their finest work go to waste.”

    “Nope,” Terra said, nodding. “The leaders of both sides eventually decided that it would be better if the human were separated from the rest. Most of the humans were moved to Earth.”

    What?

    Nathan and Tiffany looked as stunned as I was.

    “Are you saying that everyone from Earth was from Avalon first?” Nathan asked.

    “No.” Ashley moved past Terra and Tiffany and kneeled next to Nathan so she could sit by him. “Earth was already populated by that time. The number of humans on Avalon had dwindled, most escaping here. But not all of them made it. The unlucky ones were left behind, to become slaves of the other Avalonian races.”

    “It was brutal,” Terra said. “Humans were almost driven to extinction. But they survived, increasing their numbers slowly after generations. They created BRIM a military group made for hunting ‘monsters’ and whatnot. They conquered a patch of land near the Duskanian empire and eventually turned it to their own country. They’re quite successful nowadays.” Terra smiled at Ashley. “Successful enough to constantly pick fights with Artisans and the other Gaurdianite allies and Duskanian nations.”

    Ashley rolled her eyes, her cheek resting on her fist with her elbow leaning on her thigh. “I wouldn’t put it past those idiots to start the third great war.”

    Terra laughed. “If they were going to do it, they would have done so already. They’ve always had a rocky relationship with other Avalonian powers,” Terra finished his sandwich and balled up the wrapping paper. “I think that’s enough for today’s history lesson.” Terra gave Ashley a knowing look. “So, how’s the Nathan experiment going?”

    Nathan narrowed his eyes at Terra, affronted. “The hell you mean?”

    Ashley smiled. “We’ll get to that. But first,” Ashley faced me, her gaze steady. “There’s something I want to talk to Mercy about—and by extension, everyone else here.” She paused, allowing us to take her words in, her eyes still on me. “You’ve been a bit reckless with your online searches.”

    ---

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