Monroe- you had the insolence to attack me once, but will you
have the class to do it again face-to-face? Sempman- you may
think attacking a student is unjust, but is interrupting a duel
any better? You both shall have the chance to prove yourselves.
Now that your lessons are behind you, I suggest you watch your
reading the message, Troy reached for the dark purple hilt.
touch it,” Kurt said, “They're still investigating. We're not
even supposed to be here right now.”
they don't want us to see him making death threats at us?”
to display some sort of control, Kurt replied, “It's not a death
threat. It's just... a threat. He wants to scare us into a
fight. If he really meant business, he'd do more than this.”
statement didn't calm Troy down, but it did make him realize
something. “I'm surprised it didn't. All these gas canisters,
blowtorches, pressurized air... with everything in here, how
come the whole school didn't blow up?”
Molly said from behind them. Troy and Kurt, already on-edge,
jumped as they saw Molly surveying the wreckage.
wouldn't take a demon to start a fire with all this junk,” she
explained, sneering at the puddle of brake fluid she had just
stepped in. “Instead, he used magic to keep any fire away from
the seriously flammable materials.”
does the MST think of it?” Kurt asked.
much. They have the power to contact me telepathically, yet they
found it more prudent just to leave a voice mail.” Molly looked
over at the note. “They're likely dismissing this as a mere
they don't think he's serious?” Troy cried. “He put a dagger
through the wall! What makes them think he doesn't mean it?”
answered coolly, “He's a Hokoni. He knows better.”
does that mean?”
heavy sigh, Molly explained the basics. But let's go a little
deeper: the Hokoni were one of the eight factions of demonkind.
Each faction had their own creeds, rules and tendencies. Since
the MST kept a close eye on magic use on Earth, most used
semi-legitimate operations to both generate resources and
corrupt humans toward their sinister ideals. The Hokoni, for
example, lived under a code of self-importance and bigotry.
Therefore, they profited by promoting such misdeeds as religious
intolerance, extreme nationalism and riots between rival soccer
common ground between every faction was their natural hatred of
the MST. While the forces of good and evil tend to remain about
equal, evil was so divided that the MST had a tremendous
advantage over any single faction. This meant that each group
had to tread lightly when dealing with the Taskforce. Thus, they
limited their magic influence on Earth and tried their best not
to provoke the MST. Targeting MST students was not good
course, some factions were willing to take more chances in this
department out of strategy or temperament. While normally a
stupid move, some have recognized that there were exceptions.
The Hokoni, however, were not one of these factions. As focused
as they were at holding themselves superior, they refused to
denigrate themselves by sniping newbies. God forbid they be made
to look petty.
knew all this, of course, which only made Kendrick's actions all
the more frightening. “I know Hokoni are good about leaving
students alone, but they usually don't do all this stuff
nothing,” Molly said, glancing up at the symbol on the ceiling.
“This is letting off some steam after you two embarrassed him.
The Hokoni can't afford a scandal like him going after you.” She
turned to Kurt. “They're working a lot of different places right
now, and spread very thin. But they have caused trouble and they
know they're a prime target for the MST right now. The Hokoni
are in too precarious a spot to make any move against us.”
mouth hanging open a little, Kurt stared back, totally blown
away. “Wow, you really stay up on your demons. I didn't know
guardians were so concerned with all that.”
looked away, right at the dagger. The confidence she had shown
when explaining the Hokoni vanished. “They're not. It's a...”
She stopped, hesitated, then cleared her throat while mumbling,
“Subject of interest for me.”
fell silent. Troy wasn't sure what to say. He couldn't
comprehend much of her analysis, but got the general impression
that circumstances meant he and Kurt were theoretically safe.
Somehow this didn't comfort him.
he could voice his lack of faith in a political security
blanket, Donovan popped in and pointed an accusing finger at
Troy. “You!” he shouted, “You vandalized my dark room!”
happened so quickly, Troy didn't have time to deliver a coherent
response. Kurt did: “Wait, what??”
was not surprised. “Yes, he also hit Donovan's club room. The
message I got from the MST mentioned that in passing.”
didn't check. I don't like going in there.”
Kurt frowned. “Guess I'll have a look then.”
lifted his hand and teleported to the second crime scene,
Donovan continued to pursue Troy. Troy backpedaled, but cornered
himself between a tool chest that had been fused-shut and a lump
of metal that used to be an engine hood. Donovan sneered and
fired his newly-acquired energy ball attack. It bounced off
Troy's chest, fell and dissolved instantly in a pool of motor
Troy said, more annoyed than injured.
it,” Molly barked. She stood there sulking until Kurt returned.
situation in the dark room was similar, but as it had fewer
flammable materials, everything got a good toasting. Unknown
arcane symbols joined the significant smoke damage on the walls,
glowing an eerie white in the darkness.
“Actually, I think it's an improvement,” Kurt added.
not the point,” Donovan replied, turning his head.
point is that regardless of whether or not Kendrick plans to
follow up on this, we all need to be careful,” Molly said,
making sure to look both Troy and Donovan in the eyes. “Make
sure both Kurt and I know about anything suspicious, and if
Kendrick does show up- do not engage him. Kurt will teach you
two some self-defense spells just in case.”
didn't remember volunteering for that job, but he had no reason
to protest. After all, this was why he was here in the first
place. Though the thought stuck with him for the next few days:
of all the freshman units in the world, how did the one that was
actually under fire receive help so far in advance?
For a month, Troy did
not leave his house, believing it to be the only place where he
could be truly safe from Kendrick. About two weeks in, Kurt
convinced Molly to put a ward up to actually make it so. Kurt
and Kathryn would stop by once in a while to keep him company,
but Troy refused to venture into the unprotected wilderness to
catch a movie or anything. His mother considered this perfectly
normal summer behavior for an unemployed high school kid.
He still had to go to
school though. To make matters worse, he still had to walk since
he couldn't coax his mother into giving him a ride. Worse still,
Kathryn reneged on her agreement to walk with him due to a
surprise team meeting (she couldn't remember which sport). So
when the new year began on the last Wednesday in August, Troy
walked the streets of L. B. Gould, Ohio alone. Or at least he
hoped he was alone.
Troy hadn't lost sight
of his house for five minutes when he felt the tickling
sensation of two eyes on him, treading a path up and down his
body marked by hairs standing on end. He glanced over his
shoulder- nothing. Troy picked up his pace, speed-walking across
an intersection. As he reached the other side of the street, he
heard a rustling in the bushes and stupidly froze.
“Who is it?” he asked
them. They rustled again, but he did not speak bush. All he
could translate was that it was somebody or something. His
steeled his right arm at his side, ready to go into his trigger
at a moment's notice. He called out again; the bushes rustled
This time, he heard a
loud sigh. Claude popped up and pulled a pair of binoculars away
from his face. He stared at Troy unhappily and said, “You know,
it would be much easier to spy on you if you would stop being so
Troy closed his eyes and
relaxed his arm. It was only Claude making sure he didn't try
any funny business with Renee. As if he would; he had all the
chances he ever needed at the academy and did nothing. Troy took
a deep breath. “Hi, Claude. How was your summer?”
Claude yawned. “It would
have been much more interesting if you would have left the house
once in a while.”
So Troy, Renee, Kathryn
and Donovan were sophomores now. Molly was a junior, but for all
intents and purposes she carried no title other than 'Ma'am.'
Kurt was thrilled to call himself a senior, and equally thrilled
that Kathryn was no longer a freshman and thus fair game for
The joy over their
promotions subsided approximately thirty minutes into class when
they all realized that it was still high school and they still
had to put up with the same idiot teachers, classes and
classmates. Except for Molly, who remained immune to all three.
Renee didn't mind so
much. She had gotten this whole school thing down pat long ago
and looked forward to another successful year. Hiding in the
back row during her homeroom period, she propped a textbook up
and rested her head behind it, determined to make up the hours
of sleep missed playing video games the night before. Murmurs
resounded throughout the classroom, but Renee ignored them. If
anything, a disruption made it easier for her to get away with
One particular murmur,
however got her attention: “How old do you think she is?”
Curiosity piqued, Renee now had to at least see whom they were
talking about. She poked her head at the front of the room, saw
the subject, and hid behind the book again. Suddenly, she was
The only eyes on Yuki
that mattered were the teacher's. Bowing slightly and with two
hands, Yuki delivered a note to him. He took it hesitantly and
read it to himself: “This is a new transfer student named Yuki.
Please admit her into your class. Do not ask any questions or
the entire school will learn what you and Mrs. Cohen were up to
this summer. Sincerely, Molly Pearson.”
The teacher narrowed an
eyebrow at Yuki. “Do I know Mrs. Cohen?”
Yuki gasped. “Wait...
what's your name?”
“Sorry, wrong note!” She
took the note back and pulled six identical ones out of her bag,
each bearing the name of a different teacher. His appeared soon
enough. “Here we go!”
Sweating, Mr. Gordon
hurriedly said, “That's all right, Yuki! Why don't you have a
“Okay,” Yuki replied,
returning the notes to her bag. “Should I introduce myself to
“No, just sit down in
back and try not to draw attention.”
Yuki did, bopping
quietly to an empty desk in the back, ignoring the stares. She
sat down, turned to her next-desk neighbor and recognized her
immediately. “Oh, hi Renee! You're in this homeroom too?”
Suddenly extremely tired
again, Renee lifted her head up and turned it towards Yuki. The
supposed prodigy looked chipper as ever. Renee blinked and
asked, “Why are you here?”
Yuki smiled. “Well, all
units are supposed to stick together, so sending me here as a
transfer student seemed like the best choice. Besides, I heard
about Kendrick. If something happens, now I'll be able to help
Renee nodded. “That's
doubtful. So are you really smart enough to be skipped ahead to
“They told Molly to make
sure it didn't matter.”
“Ah,” Renee said. That
needed no explanation. She buried her head on her desk, tried to
forget about Yuki and nodded off once more.
At lunch, Troy paid
little attention to whatever Kathryn was talking about and
stared unhappily at Claude. As Claude was under strict orders to
keep his eyes on Troy, it made Claude quite uncomfortable as a
result. Troy didn't care. Claude's presence symbolized two
things. First, Troy was not only the possible target of a
renegade demon out for revenge, but that he would be followed
full-time by someone who didn't give a damn. Second was that he
somehow failed to recognize his opportunity to get closer to
Renee at the academy.
“Takes a while to get
used to Claude again, huh?” Kathryn asked, glancing at the spy.
“Want me to shake him for you?”
“Don't bother,” Troy
said with a heavy sigh. “He was out of our hair for three weeks
and I didn't do anything then.”
Kathryn chuckled. “I was
wondering about that. You two could have going at it in the FUP
all that time. I was going to say something, but it's not like
you ignored her.”
“I didn't even bring it
up. We talked to each other, but it was so... normal.” Troy
shook his head. “I guess I was so distracted by everything else
at the academy that I didn't notice.” Scoffing, he added,
“Hardly a testament to my eternal love.”
“Well, if you're still
hung up on Renee, there's always the next term.” Kathryn paused
and withstood the urge to grumble; the next term was in January
and she was already bemoaning the idea of missing basketball
games. “But if you went three weeks in her presence without even
thinking about it, maybe you should explore other options.”
“Other... options?” Troy
didn't know what she meant, but knew he wouldn't like whatever
she was getting at. Kathryn smiled, making Troy even more
“Follow me,” she said.
Troy obeyed, but secretly hoped Kendrick would interrupt things
with a murderous rampage.
Instead, she took him to
the freshman hallway, now just a noisy, cramped reminder of
their harrowing first year. Troy typically went out of his way
to avoid it between classes. Yet Kathryn led him right back into
She shook her head in
disgust. “Look at these kids. Bottom of the totem pole. Helpless
minnows waiting to be devoured. Juniors and seniors don't even
“This was us three
months ago,” Troy said, flatly.
“No kidding. Do you know
how many upperclassmen asked me out today?
“Kurt said his class had
a countdown clock for you and everything,” said Troy
She smiled. “Heh. I feel
kinda honored. But anyway, if the big fish don't want them,
they're yours for the taking. Pick one.”
“What do you mean, pick
one?” Troy knew exactly what she meant, but it was so frank and
sudden that it warranted clarification.
“Which one do you want?
It doesn't matter. I just want to show you something.”
Troy shook his head, but
played along. Of the dozen or so girls in the hallway, he
remembered half of them from junior high and disliked them all.
He didn't bother analyzing the rest; the first one that caught
his eye appeared harmless enough. She was alone at her locker,
checking her hair with some degree of disapproval, as if the
style was exactly what she signed up for but that the swept-back
style didn't look quite as good on her as it did in the flier.
She threw a couple bangs across her forehead and shrugged with
“How about her?” Troy
Kathryn stared at her.
While the emergency hairstyle change improved her look some, the
girl was hardly a knockout. Somewhere in the middle perhaps- a
perfect five in a hallway bearing sevens and eights. “Eh, not
who I would of picked.”
“Well, yeah. You're a
“So I've been told,”
Kathryn muttered. “Whatever. I guess she's kinda cute in a plain
sort of way. Go ask her out.”
Troy was half-expecting
it, but freaked out anyway. “What?! I don't know anything about
“Perfect. Good luck.”
With those final words, Kathryn shoved Troy towards the target.
Or rather headfirst into the locker next to the target.
The collision startled
the girl, throwing her hair out of alignment. She didn't look
any worse, however. In fact, once Troy peeled himself off the
locker and saw her up close, she was more than adequately cute.
Her face was small, but so were her eyes, nose and mouth to keep
proportion. The strands of light brown hair that had jumped ship
and gone overboard actually offered vital cover to her forehead.
Of course, having just
witnessed someone crash into a locker, her face was one of
trepidation. She stared up at him and, obligated to say
something to break the tension, went with, “Do I even want to
“No,” Troy replied. He
looked over at Kathryn, but she had vanished. Troy apologized
and turned back to the girl, who had already resumed playing
with her hair.
For a second, it looked
like the window of opportunity using the old 'crash into locker'
ice-breaker had already shut. But then she smiled and said, “No
problem. A few few feet to the right and we would have had a
“Yeah, I guess.” Troy
sighed. As he doubted that he could draw humor from crashing
into her instead of the locker, he looked for, and found, a
transition. “Say, I don't remember seeing you before. I would
have thought that in junior high-”
“I'm new here,” she
answered, cutting him off. She faced him and frowned. “My family
moved here last week.”
opened his mouth to ask the obvious follow-up, but she answered
“DC” before he could get it out.
He laughed. She smiled-
a faint smile, but with a hint of playfulness. “I've been
getting that all day. And my name's Marie.”
“I'm Troy.” Marie
nodded, forgot her smile, and turned back to the mirror in her
locker. Normally, this would be the part where Troy would say
'I'll see you around' and Marie would say 'yep' and they'd never
talk to each other again. But since he was already in
conversation, he figured he might as well do as Kathryn had
As he wasn't completely
passionate about the idea, this was the best he could come up
with: “You know, if you're new here, I can show you around town
or something if you want.”
“I already found the
basics. What else is there?” Marie shot back.
She had him there; L. B.
Gould had all of the essentials of a population center with none
of the frills. “Uh... stuff,” Troy said, trying not to laugh at
Yet Marie cocked an
eyebrow and smiled at him. “What, like restaurants and movie
Troy's mouth hung open.
She saw right through him, and would have been humiliated beyond
belief had he any emotional investment in the conversation. In
fact, because he didn't he was greatly amused by the sequence,
which showed on his face. Going with it, he shrugged and
replied, “If that's what you're into, sure.”
Marie stared back at him
for what seemed like minutes. Troy waited impatiently for her to
politely decline so he could burst out laughing. Instead, she
said, “Sure, sounds good.”
His smile sunk and
suddenly he felt his stomach twist. Marie didn't notice; she was
already reaching for her cell phone. “What's your number?” she
Troy mumbled seven
digits that he was fairly sure comprised his cell number. He
wasn't sure, however- not only had his mind entered 'what the
hell just happened' mode and shut down... he rarely called
himself. Marie entered the numbers into her own phone. Just as
she did, his phone rang.
He answered it with a
neutral, “Hello?” as if it could have been anybody.
Marie's smile widened.
“And now you have mine.” She snapped her phone shut, slammed her
locker door closed, and shuffled away. All that remained open
was Troy's mouth.
nothing else, the successful come-on distracted Troy enough to
keep him from focusing on Kendrick 24/7. Still, between that and
finding out about Yuki, Troy wondered if he had slipped into a
frightening parallel universe during his self-imposed house
arrest- not an uncommon thought in that part of Ohio. Either
way, while Kendrick was still his biggest problem, it was now no
longer his only problem. This was a good thing, as worrying
about dating and an annoying eleven-year-old classmate was a
nice chance of pace over worrying about a demon trying to kill
Kendrick would take such a slight laying down. Things were only
peaceful in L. B. Gould, Ohio for another two days.
say peaceful, of course, we ignore whatever Donovan does. He too
was affected by Kendrick's acts of terror and began a special
training regimen every afternoon. And when we say special
training regimen, we mean finding a quiet spot outside of town
and attacking a tree with his energy ball until it fell over.
Donovan had been doing this for weeks, yet the tree continued to
elude and outsmart him.
half an hour on that fateful Friday, Donovan promised himself
one more try before retreating to continue the fight another
day. He brought his hands around, created a ball of darkness and
heaved it forward only to watch it bounce harmlessly off the
tree once more. Then a second ball whizzed by him and
obliterated the tree with a massive explosion.
Donovan,” Kendrick said, nodding his head politely. “Impressive,
don't you think?”
glowered. “I was merely practicing my aim.”
shook his head. He had been watching Donovan frustrate himself
for the last fifteen minutes and had even heard Donovan verbally
command the tree to fall down. “No need to be ashamed, Donovan.
I understand that the academy won't teach you how to create a
destructive force for several years. But if you'd like to know,
I'm more than willing to offer some pointers.”
might you be?”
suppressing his urge to kill Donovan then and there, Kendrick
stewed for a moment, then responded, “Kendrick. As I told you
last time after we were interrupted, I would drop by after your
first academy term to see if you would consider joining me.”
had no reaction. Kendrick waited for one, but realized it would
be futile to hold out and continued, “If you do, you will be
able to create destruction at your whim. You will have the power
you so crave. Now I may perhaps ask you to use that power to
kill some of your classmates, but will you really miss Troy
not saying anything, Donovan paced toward the felled tree. He
stopped a yard in front of it and turned around. He clenched his
eyebrows, looked Kendrick in the eyes, and said, “You destroyed
my dark room.”
had heard Donovan say some stupid things before, but he almost
fell over in shock when he heard this. “What?” Kendrick said,
failing any attempt to maintain a dignified tone. “I did what?”
vandalized my dark room, an unforgivable treason.”
blinked, then gave up and addressed it. “How dare you accuse me?
Even if I did, that room was a disgrace- a far cry from being
truly immersed in darkness. Now, I am one with darkness and I
will show it to you somehow. You will either learn and accept it
or it will destroy you.”
Wordlessly, Donovan held his palms out- face down as always. He
slowly brought them around in a circle, pausing for a minute to
concentrate his energy into a ball. Donovan grinned. For a
moment, Kendrick was afraid that perhaps Donovan was hiding
something. That the energy ball Donovan was firing was perhaps
loaded after all. But rather than succumb to Donovan's attempt
at intimidation, Kendrick merely raised an arm to block the
ended up doing one better: he caught it. Yet another dud, and it
wound up in Kendrick's palm. Unamused, Kendrick held it at his
side and opened his hand. The ball levitated as the demon forced
his own energy into it.
lesson, Donovan...” Kendrick said. As he spoke, the ball grew
bigger and his voice grew louder. “If you plan on taking the
first shot, make sure it's effective!” He launched the energy
blast back at Donovan- a direct hit to the chest, knocking him
against the tree stump.
Seething, Kendrick approached him. “If you are foolish enough to
refuse my offer, I may as well eliminate you here!”
forced himself to his feet and shouted, “Blaine! Bryce!”
they said, then trembled the moment they saw Kendrick charge up
Kendrick went into his wind-up, Bryce shouted, “Wait!” The demon
stopped, holding the energy ball in place as he sullenly looked
over at Bryce. “Uh... if you're going to attack us, then
shouldn't we, uh, set up a displacement? I mean, we don't want
any innocent bystanders to see us killing each other with magic,
right? We don't want a repeat of before.”
well,” Kendrick said with a sigh.
displacement Bryce was referring to was a temporary dimensional
shift to allow magic users to do their thing in the event that
nosy civilians may happen by. Sort of a frontage road along the
space-time continuum. Nearby magic users retained the remnants
of what had happened while non-magi continued their normal
sounded impressive, but once a mage learned how to enter
displacement, it was fairly routine procedure. In fact, Bryce
did it by simply spinning his crystal around for a few seconds.
He, Blaine, Donovan and Kendrick felt a little ringing in their
ear, but that was it. Bryce dropped his crystal-bearing arm to
his side and smiled. Kendrick smiled back and opened fire.
shock, the ball exploded in front of the trio, its debris
bouncing off some hidden barrier and falling to the ground.
hoisted his crystal. “Oh, while I was at it, I put up a shield.
too, was a ruse. As Kendrick fumed at Bryce and prepared another
attack, he didn't see Blaine charge at him and shoot a wind gust
into his face. The demon stumbled backwards, but kept charging
his attack. Kendrick got his bearings back in time to see Blaine
work up another spell. Kendrick threw whatever power he had put
into his ball and fired it. The two released their attacks at
the same time... Kendrick won. His blast went right through
Blaine's and knocked the minion to the ground.
Anticipating that Kendrick would go after him and Bryce next,
Donovan linked his arm with Bryce's. “Maintain that shield at
sir,” Bryce said as Donovan began his trigger.
enough, with Blaine down, Kendrick turned to Donovan and Bryce,
but Donovan was already prepared with a flight spell. He
successfully levitated both himself and Bryce into the air. With
Kendrick watching helplessly from the ground, Donovan rose up...
and up... and drove Bryce's head right into a tree branch.
minion and his shield fell to the ground and the change in
weight distribution sent Donovan out of control. He flipped and
flailed around in midair, taking a few seconds to regain his
balance. He looked down and saw a dazed Blaine and a knocked-out
Bryce, but no Kendrick. Then Donovan looked straight ahead.
Kendrick was hovering too, wearing quite the smirk. Now he was
takes care of them,” Kendrick said, “Now where were we?”
Kendrick was pummeling Donovan, everybody else was still in
normal high school mode. As it was Friday night in a rural city,
that meant everybody was obsessed with either football or sex.
And only Kurt was thinking about the latter, and only in the
back of his mind as he and Kathryn played catch in her backyard
before the game.
know, you can throw it to us too,” Troy said after five straight
minutes of Kurt and Kathryn trading throws. While Kurt and
Kathryn were both on the team, Troy and Yuki were to be content
watching from the seats during the game. Here, however, they
just felt left out.
Troy. Here, go deep!” Kathryn shouted. As Troy was at the other
end of the yard, Kathryn hurled it. As the yard was not a
regulation-length football field, the ball sailed well over
Troy's head and he sprinted after it.
winked at Kathryn. “See why they didn't want you at
the ball's inaccessibility, Troy was determined to at least make
a play out of it. The only way to do that, however, was with a
flight spell. As no one else was watching, Troy lifted himself
into the air, flew up and caught up to the ball.
when we said that Troy was bad at catching and useless at
catching in midair? Catching in midair while attempting to
maintain a flight spell was nothing short of disastrous. The
ball squirted out of Troy's outstretched fingers and fell to the
ground. Troy also lost his concentration, lost the flight spell,
and fell into a row of bushes.
other three, after they were done laughing, ran up to check on
him. Troy picked himself out of the shrubbery and immediately
felt woozy. Kathryn grabbed his arm to keep him on two feet. The
dizziness left him in a hurry, but he still felt disoriented.
Not a room-spinning disorientation, but rather the sensation
that the natural compass between the ears that provided sense of
direction had suddenly settled on a new magnetic pole, as if
west-by-southwest was the new north.
summarized this feeling thusly: “I feel tingly.”
she had the chance to laugh, Kathryn clutched the back of her
head. “That's weird. So do I.” She saw Kurt exchange a knowing
and deeply concerned look with Yuki.
pinched his ear and turned around, Yuki explained, “I think
somebody set up a displacement. That's bad news.”
you mean?” Kathryn replied, dropping Troy and approaching Kurt.
spun around and addressed all three of them. “Okay, something's
going on. Troy- come with me. Kathryn and Yuki- find Renee and
meet us. Yuki, you know how to get there, right?” Yuki nodded
Kathryn shouted. “What's going on?”
on Kurt's face said everything. So did his reply: “Bring your
Renee's probably at school. It'll take us forever to get there,”
Nervously, Kathryn replied, “Uh... Yuki and I never really got
that teleporting thing down.”
do it. Should I go with them?” Troy offered.
stared at Troy, pondered everything, then agreed.
about Molly?” Yuki asked.
Molly...” Kurt said, head turned to the direction of the
displacement. “...she's already there.”
Molly arrived, Kendrick had already delivered quite a beating on
Donovan. He repeated the same technique continuously- Kendrick
charged at a spot above Donovan, then canceled his flight spell
to charge and release a quick attack. His momentum carried him
down towards Donovan, where he would kick him in the chest, push
off, and cast another flight spell. Despite being subjected to
this several times and being beaten to the point of
unconsciousness, Donovan refused to let go of his flight, even
though it left him as a floating duck.
was fine with this: if Donovan was content with simply absorbing
Kendrick's blows, the demon's moves were predictable and made
him an easier target. On the ground and keeping her distance,
she concentrated a spell, maneuvered her finger very precisely,
focused her energy and executed at the precise moment. Behind
Kendrick, a tree reared back and snapped forward just as he was
in position, slapping him out of orbit and driving him into the
dirt. Casting hand and foul glare at the ready, Molly marched
picked himself off the ground, clenching his eyebrows at his
assailant. Neither he nor Molly spoke; they didn't need to. One
was good, one was evil, and both were about to have at it. Molly
began motioning for a spell, but held her finger out and froze.
Her icy poker face remained, forcing Kendrick to guess what she
had charged up. As much as he appreciated a good mind game, he
wasn't going to let a certain violent duel denigrate into a
chess match. Carefully watching Molly's finger, he charged up a
simple attack and fired.
Unflinching, Molly slashed her finger and the energy mass
exploded five feet in front of her. Then she repeated the
process and held the same finger out again. This time, instead
of an energy ball, Kendrick focused and swiped the ground below
him. As designed, a small force propelled forward along the
ground, igniting a giant blast where Molly was standing. A mere
shield would not provide adequate defense.
Molly didn't have a shield charged up this time. As soon as
Kendrick released, Molly pivoted around on her right foot, then
again on her left foot- a speedy way to side-step the attack.
Just as the blast reached its intended target a yard to her
left, Molly released her spell- she had been preparing her own
attack and had been charging it for some time. It wasn't
technically finger-lightning, but it sure looked and felt like
it hurt. Kendrick fell to a knee and clutched his chest. His
skin burned and every breath came with the sensation of being
whacked in the lungs with a cactus. Both he and Molly knew the
actual physical damage to his body was negligible: few MST
Weavers could inflict honest bodily injury directly with a
spell. Yet intolerable pain was a close enough substitute, and
Molly could unleash that in abundance. Kendrick looked up in
time to see Molly, still with that stone face, release more of
it. Smoke engulfed him and he lost sight of her.
continued to pour it on, putting as much energy as possible into
ensuring Kendrick's agony. Finally, she broke it off and let the
smoke clear. When it did, she was finally forced to react:
Kendrick had vanished. With no explosive magic flying about,
silence took over. Molly nervously looked around; a missing
demon was not good. She saw nothing, and as she heard the energy
ball form directly above her she knew it was too late. Kendrick
was now overhead, descending full speed with an attack on the
ready. There was no time to react; Molly took the full brunt of
it. As she toppled over, Kendrick drove his foot into her face
to break his fall and make hers all the more painful.
smiled; a hand on his chest was the first part of his trigger.
Once Molly had committed to another attack, he had teleported
away in time, reappeared before she could counter it and took to
the skies before she find him. Now the skilled MST guardian was
simply an unconscious girl lying face up on the grass, her
forehead split open. Unlike MST Weavers, demons highly approved
of spells capable of wounding or even killing. Just like the one
Kendrick began to charge up, grinning at the sight of Molly's
that was all from the infamous Molly Pearson?”
prepared to deliver the final blow, a sharp pain engulfed his
entire left side. He dropped his energy ball, which exploded at
his feet, and fell to the ground clutching his waist. Kendrick
rose immediately and looked to his left but found nothing.
Grumbling, he stammered in that direction for a better look and
found the attacker. Donovan was on his knees, arms extended and
Donovan had hit his target. He fell forward and passed out, his
Kendrick was pissed, his
entire upper body stung and he felt sick to his stomach. He had
no reason to kill Donovan, and little capacity to do much more,
but if he could at least eliminate Molly, he could look back on
this and call it a good day.
He trudged back to her,
still lying helplessly in the middle of the clearing. Weak as he
was, there was no way he could continue devoting raw energy to
attack spells. Therefore, he called upon a typical Hokoni trick:
he summoned a sword. Most demons in his faction had access to
their own personal rapier and he found it an appropriate and
efficient way to destroy his foe.
Before he could reach
Molly, however, the earth around her began to shift. Kendrick
backed up and watched as the ground rose and surrounded her in a
protective barrier. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the
source of it. “Do none of you have any concept of a fair fight?”
Kurt dropped his arm and
replied, “Nope.” He slowly raised his arm again, conjuring
“This is for what you
did to the garage,” he said. As his arm fully extended, a
torrent of wind picked up some loose earth and rocks and rushed
them over to Kendrick.
Kendrick sliced the
dirty cyclone away, not amused. “It's always about rooms and
garages. You're all far too possessive.”
Kurt was too busy
readying his next attack to listen. This time, a stone wall rose
in front of him. After he made a few markings on it and knocked,
his next trigger sent whole blocks of the wall after Kendrick.
The demon ducked and sliced through this, although some made
contact. Unlike a Weaver's spell, this was real rock and
therefore caused real injury. Kendrick fell to a knee.
Even on one knee,
however, he could see Kurt's next move. As Kurt began to
disappear, Kendrick quickly fired off his trigger and forced
himself to stand. Halfway to the rock pile guarding Molly, Kurt
reappeared. He fell to the ground, the wind knocked out of him.
Having a teleportation spell countered had that effect on
Kendrick struggled to
his feet and stepped towards Kurt, pointing his rapier at the
fallen student. “Did you really expect that to work?” Kendrick
Still gasping for air,
Kurt stood and saw Kendrick's slow approach. Kurt began
defensive motions: their battle had just begun.
For all of their
abilities, Kendrick had used most of his energy on Donovan and
Molly, while Kurt was far better suited towards defense.
Therefore, neither of the two could find an opening to attempt
an attack after several minutes of positioning, shielding spells
and random ineffective rapier thrusts.
When the remaining
recruits arrived, however, they saw Kurt boxed in by his own
barriers and Kendrick attempting to get through. Between that
and seeing Molly in terrible shape within her earthen bunker,
they all decided that the current situation was bad.
Troy stated the obvious:
“Well, we have to do something.”
Renee stared at her
unconscious sister with wide eyes. She had apparently been
slotted for the cheerleading squad that night and her short
pleated skirt seemed wholly inappropriate. “How? We don't know
any useful spells yet,” she replied.
Clutching her staff,
Kathryn scoffed. “Pfft. Spells...” Regardless of her actual
skill in the field of magic and regardless of her opinion of it,
a friend was in trouble and that meant clobbering time.
“Troy!” she barked, “I'm
going in- cover my back with whatever you can come up with.
Yuki? Once he's distracted, rush in and heal Molly. Renee?”
Kathryn glanced at Renee and that gaudy blue cheerleader get-up.
“Don't get your skirt dirty. Let's go.”
Perhaps one of the
advantages to being ambivalent to the wonders of magic was a
lack of fear when up against it. As Kendrick had long since
restrained himself, all Kathryn saw as she ran to the rescue was
his thin rapier. It may have been sharper than her staff, but
her weapon was bigger.
Kendrick saw her
approach and quickly held his sword out to parry any attack.
Gripping both hands on the staff, Kathryn led off with an
overhead strike. Despite the flimsiness of the rapier and his
non-dominant hand doing the work, Kendrick knocked it away
easily. For all of Kathryn's strength and her weapon's girth,
subsequent attacks demonstrated that she wasn't a trained
fighter- she was just trying to knock the bad guy out with her
staff. Kendrick, meanwhile, was an decent fencer and repelling
her simple, telegraphed swings came naturally, even if he wasn't
So Kathryn did the next
best thing- she threw her whole body into the attack, driving
forward with the staff. Kendrick again repelled the staff, but
not her fist as she socked him in the chin. She wasn't
left-handed either, but he still stumbled backwards.
“How about that?” she
spat, taking a moment to catch her breath.
Kendrick checked his
chin- no blood. “Oh please, I could have stabbed you in the
heart by now if I had any interest in it.”
“If you're not trying to
kill us, then why are you here?”
He smiled. “Molly
Pearson. I have an interest in killing her.”
If you're wondering why
MST students don't use magic incantations, as they are often
presented in the media, today's academies value the element of
surprise over shouting the name of one's attack beforehand. Had
Troy shouted some Latin chant before casting his water spell,
Kendrick might not have been totally startled by the deluge of
cold water striking him in the side. As it were, the sudden rush
of water practically paralyzed him as he dropped his sword to
clutch the afflicted area. This, in turn, gave Kurt an opening
to charge in with a spell that actually did something.
Still, while it caught
him off guard, Kendrick was not actually disabled. Still bent
over, he charged up his own spell and fired at Kurt before Kurt
could complete his trigger. Another routine energy ball, but it
was enough to knock Kurt backwards into the rock pile protecting
Molly. “Kurt!” Troy shouted as he ran over.
“As for him, he just
peeves me,” Kendrick said, turning back to Kathryn. Equally
peeved, she screamed and charged at him with the staff. With
minimal panic, Kendrick scooped up his sword with his right
hand, leaned down to evade her attack, and calmly stabbed her in
the calf. She tumbled over, dropped her staff and howled in
With Kathryn's tire
blown, Kendrick turned to Troy and Kurt. The latter was still
reeling from the prior attack and the former was still pretty
useless, especially as he witnessed Kathryn in agony. Kendrick
saw no challenge getting past them to finish off Molly. Troy was
determined to present one anyway and fired an attack.
Not only was the water
spell ineffective, it fell short of Kendrick, forming a puddle
in front of the demon. As Kendrick stepped through it, Troy's
stream shortened even more, succeeding only in dampening the
ground Kendrick walked upon. Kendrick smiled, ignoring his muddy
shoes. Troy smiled too as Kurt raised his arm, loosening the
moistened earth to create some makeshift quicksand.
Kendrick lost his
balance and stumbled forward, almost falling into the muck. But
before Kurt could summon enough strength to call forth another
spell, Kendrick fought his way out of it, still standing, and
now holding his sword up to pierce his way through to Molly.
Kurt and Troy were out of tricks, out of energy and helpless
against the armed demon.
A shadow fell on the
pair. It wasn't Kendrick's though: it belonged to Renee, and she
was casting that warding spell she had learned in Weaving.
“Exorcism Extratorum!” she shouted, element of surprise be
While still only a mild
irritant, it was enough to send Kendrick staggering backward
into the unstable mire. One full-powered water blast toppled
him. Renee, holding her skirt in place, jumped down from the
rock pile and joined Troy and Kurt. The three slowly approached
Kendrick, Kurt carefully conjuring one last spell to dispose of
the demon for good.
Kendrick, however, had
one more left in him. He summoned it and slammed the ground at
his side. Quick jolts of energy rippled around him, shocking
anybody in the vicinity. Troy, Kurt and Renee fell to the
ground. Though the effect was diminished yards away, it still
knocked out Kathryn, already reeling from the pain in her leg.
This was all Kendrick
had in him. Completely drained, aching in several places, and
unable to get up, he forced his hand to his chest and managed
one final spell- teleportation. He visualized someplace dark and
isolated where he could go and recover.
As he vanished, Yuki's
potion finally took effect. While Molly still felt all the
anguish of a boot to the face, the aftermath of Kendrick's magic
attack had been remedied. She and Yuki climbed the wall of their
rock shelter to survey the carnage- counting Blaine and Bryce on
the other end of the clearing, a grand total of seven bodies.
All were certainly alive, but for the moment the only thing
running through Molly's head was the perennial dogma that
assured their safety: demons did not attack MST students.
The sight was almost too
much for young Yuki to bear. She fretted loudly, finally
mumbling, “Wh... what happened?”
As bad as it was, Molly
couldn't stand looking at Yuki witness it all. Comfort, however,
was never one of her devices. Molly stared straight ahead at
Renee and Kathryn and Troy and Kurt and replied, “They picked
the wrong group to put you in.”