Magical Security Taskforce

 FULL ARCHIVE

VOLUME: 4

CHAPTER: 9

1 2 3 4 5 6

Chapter 35: Negate


Session One

Yuki had lost the ability to scream, struggling to breathe as the brick surrounded her and closed in against her body. Not that it mattered: Kurt was out of earshot and Kamila had been Sho's accomplice all along. She didn't seem happy watching Yuki die, but she was quietly tolerating it and that was frightening enough.

Her only hope was that Kurt was actively monitoring Sho's activities. He didn't divulge exactly how he would be keeping tabs on them, only that he would. Yuki resisted giving in to the increasing pain, hoping that his method involved actively checking his Bloodberry rather than simply staying close and reading a magazine in his car. Her life depended on it.

“Hey, Sho, when you're done, don't forget that football. Those aren't cheap,” Kamila said, still facing away from the action. “And hurry it up. I want to get out of here before Kurt or Pearson show up.”

On cue, the bricks seemed to close in faster. Yuki tried to moan, but she couldn't breathe. Silent as he was, Sho was obeying Kamila's command.

Then, suddenly, the bricks separated and fell to the ground. Yuki fell with them. Down on all fours, the bricks scraped her hands. She gasped for air before looking up to see what had happened. Yuki doubted a sudden bout of remorse on Sho's part, so there was only one possibility.

Kurt swooped in and clutched Yuki's shoulders, using one hand to raise the fallen bricks into a shield. “Are you all right?” She was still too winded to talk, but she nodded.

“What happened? Did you do anything to him? Attack him or something?”

She shook her head. Finding her voice, she gasped, “Kamila...”

“She's just looking away right now. We must be in displacement. God, I can't believe I missed it.”

“No, she's-” The brick shield collapsed on top of them. Kurt dove over Yuki, exposing his back in the process.

Then there was silence. Keeping his arms up at the ready, Sho cautiously stepped forward. There was no way such a blow would kill anybody, but before he could deliver a finishing attack, he had to know if they were conscious.

A step later, a hand rose out of the bricks. The bricks themselves, every one of them, followed it and flew after Sho. A dozen or so struck him in the face, torso and arms before he could get his trigger up and block the rest.

Kurt, bloodied head, torn shirt and all, rose from the pile, arm raised at Sho. He too fished for air, but nothing was turning him away from his target.

“Guess I don't have to wait for the testing to come back,” he spat.

Sho brushed the counter-attack away and swiped his arms. Rather than wait, Kurt strafed away in time to avoid the giant spike that erupted from the ground. It rose fast enough to drill through anything, and it took Kurt a moment to recover from what ended up being a close call. In that time, Sho let it go and tried again. Caught off guard and feeling the tremor below him, Kurt could only throw a hand up to slow it down.

He impeded the attack enough to make it harmless, then jumped away from the spike as soon as he could, casting a spell to harden the ground below him to make it more resistant against Sho's magic. For his efforts, a stream of flame struck him in the chest. It knocked him over, singed him a little, and startled him enough to draw his attention from Sho... and onto Kamila.

Kamila raised her left arm to her right shoulder. Eyebrows narrowed, she glared back. “Much as I hate you barging in on us, I gotta say it's nice to be able to do that again.” She shook her head, but maintained her poise. “You have no idea how much I wanted those Zukoni bastards to burn.”

Trying to keep tabs on both Sho and Kamila, Kurt tried not to get too worked up about her. Although he was able to stay on guard, he couldn't help but dig through the months and his experiences with Kamila, trying to find all the hidden clues that he should have picked up on. There weren't any. Yes, she was brash and yes, she reacted very strongly to the Zukoni. But so did Kathryn. For all the notions that the Hageshoni weren't very subtle, she pulled it off perfectly. Especially compared to Sho.

If that stereotype was unfounded, maybe another was too: “What do you guys want?” Kurt asked either of them, hoping they would perhaps be open to discussion.

Kamila frowned. “Sorry, Kurt, you're not dealing with that Hokoni prick. Sho had his plans, but you got too close. We're just taking out who we can before we go.”

She marched forward and shot a fireball at him. He shielded. “And frankly,” she shouted, launching another fireball. “I'm pissed off...” And another. “...that I have to...” And again, her voice getting louder. “...expose myself...” She kept firing. “...and try to kill...” One more, a larger one this time that finally broke Kurt's stone shield and struck him in the neck. “...the same people I've been hanging out with for the last year!”

Pausing and taking a deep breath, she calmed down and added, “I just want to get this over with and kill you guys quickly. So shut the hell up.”

 

Session Two

Thankfully, the reason Kurt had taken so long to rescue Yuki wasn't to build suspense. He was sending out an APB to Molly, her unit and the district office. Although he wasn't allowed to demand Molly's assistance, the level of urgency can be spelled out very clearly, even through Twitter.

Troy arrived first, another victim of boredom with Kathryn and Marie out of town. By the time he arrived, Kurt was on the ropes, singed by Kamila but more worried about what Sho could do with any attempted earth spells. When Kamila tried another fireball, Troy doused it, and looked up in shock at its summoner.

He didn't get much farther than a stunned “K...” before she smirked at him.

“Yeah, yeah, shut up,” Kamila said. “I know, all that stuff about us being friends. I'm not really enjoying this either.” She quickly fired off a round of flame. After he frantically dodged it, she snickered. “Well, maybe a little.”

Troy was still stunned. The friend part was only half of it. What was more shocking was how she had passed herself off as reasonably normal. All the demons he had encountered seemed somehow more grandiose than normal. Kendrick was upright and arrogant, the Zukoni were large and boisterous, the Chioni were scumbags in suits. Kamila may have been a temperamental loudmouth, but there had been nothing sinister about her. Seeing her as a demon alone was less shocking as the shattering of his notion of demonkind, borne through limited experience and the academy's grooming.

Kamila didn't see it that way though. After another missed fireball, she mockingly asked, “What? Can't attack your friend?”

Troy sighed and realized his duty. He slowly stepped into position, readied his trigger... and watched as Kamila took a nasty blast in the side.

“Luckily, you and I aren't friends,” Molly said, walking up to the Hageshoni with Renee at her side.

Renee wasn't as cold. “Kamila's...” she whispered.

“...mine,” Molly answered. “You and Troy help Kurt.”

Kurt was still on his back. Although his foresight protected him from below, he had to stay on guard and block Sho's frontal assaults. Sho wasn't fast with his trigger, so Kurt could at least ready himself, but when the attacks involved hoisting chunks of bedrock out of the ground and slamming them at him, defense was difficult. His shielding absorbed most of the blow, but after a few of these, he was hurting.

Sho saw no reason to stop. He lifted another mass of stone from below and flung it at Kurt once again. This time, it took a combined effort from Troy and Renee to break it up.

They stood, resolved to defeat the enemy. Sho didn't like that: he cast another spell, this time making the ground under Renee quake. She cast a flight spell before the incoming spike could strike her.

“Jeez!” she shouted.

“Yeah, gotta watch for those,” Kurt said, as Yuki arrived with a much-needed potion.

Kamila remained down, but Molly had her doubts. Her surprise attack was knock-down strong, but not knock-out strong. She slowly hovered over the demonic girl, watching for any eye or arm movements that would suggest a trap. Although she didn't see any, she shrugged and fired off another bolt of hard energy directly at Kamila's sternum. Kamila winced and screamed, then laid silent on the ground. Now Molly was more convinced.

Down to a knee, she whipped up a binding spell. Before she could execute, Kamila sat up suddenly and struck Molly with a massive fireball. Kamila jumped to her feet, arm raised at Molly, who grunted loudly and rolled on the ground to subdue her burning clothing. But before Kamila could give Molly more to put out, she heard a loud explosion and was propelled into the air, crashing several yards away.

And Donovan grinned. He hated Kamila all along. “Finally, you and I shall battle.”

His minions were present, but rather than flank him they snuck over to help out Molly. Once back on her feet, she didn't acknowledge their help, but instead watched Kamila. After a blow like that, she must have been out.

No- Kamila hopped back up and readied her trigger. Despite her deep breathing and scratched face, she merely smiled back at them and fired her spell. Pillars of fire rose up in front of Donovan, Blaine, Bryce and Molly. Before they could respond, she approached them to deliver some more.

Now that he was sufficiently healed, Kurt anti-spiked the ground below Troy and Renee. Problem was that Sho was just fine shooting his giant stone creations instead. Troy and Renee did their best to break those up, but with them on defense Kurt was the only one available to attack Sho. And he didn't dare use his only strong suit against somebody who wielded earth magic even better.

At least it was a temporary stalemate, which was more than Kurt could assume about the battle against Kamila. Donovan and Molly were hammering her all over the place, but she kept getting back up and launching even greater attacks against them. Already, Molly was starting to weaken. As scary as Sho was, Kamila looked nearly invincible.

Maybe she was. There were probably Hageshoni demons capable of such feats. But Kurt realized that Kamila couldn't be one of them. The strongest Hageshoni demons couldn't pass as normal high school students. Those guys would make Sho look normal. If Kamila was here for that long doing simple recon work, she couldn't have been as strong as she looked. Something was artificially enhancing her ability to withstand Molly's might and strike back with equal force.

Something like a symbol in the dark room.

“Yuki!” he cried. Yuki hustled over, cowering in case Troy or Renee missed blocking one of Sho's attacks.

“Got another potion ready!” She handed it over.

He took the vial. “We need to disable that mark in the dark room!”

“How?!”

Kurt glanced at Sho and turned back. “I don't know. But you saw how he did it the first time. And you were always spraying it. There's got to be a way.”

She shook her head, violently. “But... Miguel had-”

He threw his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. “Yuki, with that thing active, I don't think we can beat these two. I'll give your potion to whoever needs it, but you need to try to disable that mark!”

Yuki looked at him for a long time, trying to find reason to protest. She didn't have a clue how she was going to do it. She just knew it was up to her to figure it out.

 

Session Three

Before she could figure out how to negate the symbol in the dark room, Yuki had to get to the dark room. On a weekend with no activity inside the school, this was a problem. Every door was locked. She tried knocking, but nobody appeared to be inside. Yuki pounded on the door again, this time out of frustration. Her daring mission to save the day had been defeated in three minutes, all because she lacked the ability to teleport.

No! Yuki paused and tried to collect herself. If she wasn't going to be able to do this, she had to run back to the battlefield and start whipping out potions. Sho and Kamila weren't leaving any room for error or angst. Before she gave up, however, she took stock of what she could do and what she had with her. She dug through her satchel, hoping to find anything that would at least get her inside.

Among many other useless trinkets that had been neglected at the bottom of the bag, she found that glass cutter that she had used against Winston in the Chioni battle. Besides a reminder that she really needed to clean out the clutter down there, it was at least something. She scored a quick circle in the window, which at least prepped it for a stronger treatment.

That ended up being a bigass rock Yuki hurled at the glass in desperation. The circle broke cleanly, although it did shatter against the floor and started an alarm. Yuki knew Molly would take care of that later, and stuck her arm through the window and pushed the door open. Stepping carefully over the glass, Yuki hustled to the dark room. Graceful or not, she was in.

 

Kurt, Troy and Renee were getting nowhere against Sho. One was ineffective on offense and the other two were stuck blocking Sho's relentless assault, leaving nobody to try to slow down or stop Sho himself. As he reinforced the barrier preventing an attack from below, Kurt weighed his options. He didn't like the idea of waiting for Yuki. Troy and Renee were doing a fair job striking down Sho's attacks, but they would wear out eventually and it would only take one miss for Sho to do serious damage. Clearly, Sho was counting on this as he fired the same thing over and over again.

A token fire spell at Sho confirmed the other problem: Kurt had always been weak offensively. The flame struck Sho in the shoulder. He paused, patted it away carelessly, and resumed his attack before Troy could seize the opportunity. Troy getting an opportunity seemed to be the key; he might be able to do something. Kurt looked down and saw it- the stone barrier below. Sho seemed fond of those spike attacks, but since Kurt's barrier was in place nothing had emerged. So that, at least, seemed to be working.

Taking a deep breath, Kurt raised an arm and the ground in front of Troy and Renee turned into that same protective stone. Then it elevated in front of them, creating a makeshift bunker. He stepped forward and ducked behind it, encouraging Troy and Renee to do the same. They did, Sho fired, and his attack bounced off the wall.

“Great, but how are we supposed to see him?” Troy asked.

Kurt was already on that. He extended his hand into the dirt mound. A block of it flew out towards Sho. It did no damage, but Troy now had his own little firing window. Renee needed no such amenity and hid behind the bunker to catch her breath.

Still needing to keep an eye on Sho, Kurt peered over the wall as Troy fired an ice bolt through it. The attack struck Sho in the stomach and knocked him back a little, but Sho merely shrugged it off and fired another stone ball at Kurt, who ducked as it passed over the bunker.

“Damn, so much for that,” Kurt muttered. Now he wasn't sure if anything could get to the demon.

“Uh... Kurt...” Renee said, nervously. She was shaking. Or rather, her back support was. And starting to unsettle. Kurt raised a hand to try to get it back into shape, but Sho's magic had already taken effect. The dirt behind the stone collapsed on itself, falling on top of Troy and Renee. And one blast later, the unstable wall exploded over it.

Sho wasn't finished. With Troy and Renee still buried, the earth around them started to close in and tighten. They screamed while they could. Kurt was unable to undo the spell with one of his own, then he tried an ice bolt on Sho. Again, it barely fazed him, but it disrupted his trigger and gave Kurt an opening to dig in and pull Troy out.

“Get Renee, I'll keep him busy,” Kurt barked. Troy barely had time to catch his breath before diving into the heap to pull Renee to safety.

While those three struggled to defend themselves against Sho, Molly and Donovan were throwing everything they could at Kamila. She avoided many of the attacks, but even the ones that did connect did little but scratch her. Those only riled her up further, giving her a little bounce in her step and making her harder to hit.

Her attacks, in return, did do damage and almost all of them were directed at Molly. She was starting to slow; the burns on her arms and chest grew harder to ignore. The smoke from all the fire spells made the air hazy and harder to breathe. Finally, Molly gave up and switched to a shield. Kamila continued on, intent on breaking Molly further.

Strong as they were, with only two enemies in play, it did mean one thing- nobody was blocking teleportation spells. While Kamila hammered away on Molly, Donovan vanished. Kamila noticed, but before she could react, Blaine jumped in with an air gust. It fazed her just enough that when Donovan appeared next to her, he was able to charge a strong blast and nail her point blank.

This time, she stayed down, at least for a few moments. Bryce seized the opportunity and ran in swinging his crystal. Before he could execute his spell however, Kamila jumped to her feet and kicked him in the stomach. While he recoiled, she drove her left fist into his face with an uppercut that transitioned nicely into her trigger. The ensuing fireball knocked Bryce out.

Kamila fired off a prolonged, steady flame when she turned around, just in case somebody was thinking of attacking her from behind again. Somebody like Blaine, who tried and failed to use his air magic to repel it. His wind spell ended up fanning the fire, totally engulfing the poor minion and preventing Molly from getting close. Kamila grinned, fueling it more and more until the wind went away and it was clear Blaine was no longer a threat. She cut the fire, let it pass and immediately frowned.

Blaine's spell had certainly ceased. But not for the reason Kamila was expecting. Blaine didn't want to hit Donovan, suddenly standing in front of him with a shield. If the fire had hit either of them, they didn't show it. Keeping his shield up, Donovan stepped aside. Blaine was ready with a vicious cyclone. Kamila hit the ground to avoid it, but Blaine kept targeting her until it pushed her up and away. She hopped to her feet immediately, disoriented as all hell.

The minion's aim was specific; Kamila had landed right in Molly's wheelhouse. And Molly was charging something fierce. She started into her trigger.

Kamila got her spell off first. Dizzy or not, seeing Molly made her react. And she reacted first. Her weak fireball connected and disrupted Molly, whose energy blast fell to the ground and exploded at her feet. The resulting boom knocked over both of them and even got the attention of the trio busy with Sho.

While Kamila crawled away angrily, Molly didn't move.

“Molly!” Renee shrieked. Despite being covered in dirt and gasping for air, she was still ready to fly over to her sister.

Actually, so was Kurt. He held a hand up at Renee. “I'll help her, Renee. You and Troy take care of Sho.” Renee looked at him, nodded, then stood up.

Once Donovan and Blaine had engaged Kamila again, Kurt used a flight spell to cut between the two battles. Indeed, Molly was barely conscious. He bent down, lifted her head and carefully poured Yuki's potion into her mouth. As soon as the vial was empty, her eyes snapped open and she coughed.

“You okay?” he asked. She grunted and sat up slowly. He'd have to take that as a yes.

“Thanks,” she replied, forcing herself to her feet. Much as he wanted to ensure her safe recovery, he knew he had to get back to Troy and Renee. He cast another flight spell and took off.

This time, Kamila spotted him- defenseless in mid-air. Evading Donovan, she launched a firestorm at him. It exploded in his face and dropped him to the ground.

The bare ground, completely unprotected from Sho's giant spike.

It impaled him.

 

Session Four

One thing was certain: the symbol was active. Normally defined by a simple steady glow when exposed to light, the mark was now pulsating irregularly, likely defined by how much power it was lending Sho and Kamila at a given moment. Every so often, an intense flash would momentarily blind Yuki. She set her bag on Donovan's table and took another inventory. She knew she didn't have the magic expertise to disable the mark through a potion, but perhaps her assortment of items would come through again.

The only one that seemed relevant this time was that spray bottle from Miguel. She had never sprayed it directly on the mark, only the room, but perhaps its purification properties would at least diminish the symbol's impact. Yuki sprayed the wall vigorously, covering the entire area of the mark, but she couldn't tell if it had done anything. It flickered a little, but that might have been a natural occurrence.

She stood back and waited, but she saw no real impact. Just as she considered going through Donovan's rack of goodies for anything useful, she realized there was a difference: the blinding flashes had stopped. They were irregular before, but given how long since she had sprayed, at least one should have appeared. The more she looked at it, the fainter it seemed. This was encouraging.

Perhaps a larger dose of the liquid would help. She tried to pull off the spraying device, but it wouldn't budge. With time so important and with few other options, she hurled the whole thing at the wall. The crystal shattered and its contents spilled over the marking, filling the room with the intense medicinal smell. Yuki covered her nose and mouth and her eyes began to water, but she stayed there to see how the mark would react. It flickered more rapidly, then dimmed, then darkened completely.

Yuki sighed in relief, then almost passed out from the contents of that vial. She grabbed her satchel and ran out of the room to get a place where she could breathe again.

 

The instant the spike struck Kurt, the battle paused. Everybody who had fought Sho knew how dangerous the attack was when launched with such force. The way it seemed to rip into Kurt's chest froze time. For all the injuries and knockout blows they had seen before, one with so much power, not to mention the blood spilling down the spike, made them all squeamish. Even Kamila took a step back.

Molly ran up to him, ignoring either of the two threats. She nudged his shoulder, but there was no response. She called his name out, and lifted his head- nothing. For all her expertise, all she knew was that it was bad, he needed immediate help and that she had no way to provide it. She couldn't even remove the spike without seriously jeopardizing Kurt's life.

All Sho saw was another target, this time with her back to him. He raised an arm, but he felt an ice ball that even he couldn't ignore. It interrupted his spell and knocked him over. He immediately found his assailant: Troy stood upright, trigger arm at his side. He was completely unprotected. From the look of his eyes, he didn't give a damn.

Sho stood up and glared at Troy. At least his attention was off Molly. Both fired spells at each other simultaneously. Troy's ice blast and Sho's stone projectile collided in midair and shattered. They tried again: this time Sho lobbed his attack into the air. He took the ice spell in the chest, but he didn't care if it would destroy his opponent.

“Troy!” Renee shouted. Troy had not noticed the giant rock falling on him from above until it was too late. She threw a spell up just in time to catch most of it. It still struck Troy and knocked him down, but did no more damage than the ice had done to Sho. Troy jumped to his feet and approached Sho again.

Renee screamed his name again, but Troy was determined to keep Sho at bay, a futile effort given Sho's apparent invulnerability. She shielded him when she could, but that only contributed to the stalemate. He was going to need more help for any chance of survival.

She saw Molly, still frantically trying to revive Kurt. Her efforts were going nowhere; they were clearly helpless until Yuki returned. Yet Molly persisted, nudging his shoulders repeatedly until she was clutching them. With Sho and now Kamila occupied, Renee charged over to her sister.

“Molly! Troy needs your help!” Up close, Renee could see just how badly Molly was panicking. Her hands trembled, her breathing was labored, and her eyes were red and wide. Renee pulled Molly away, trying not to look at Kurt and freak out herself.

Molly resisted, pushing back against Renee, shouting, “He needs help! Look at him! If we don't heal him soon, he'll...”

Renee relented as Molly returned to him. She didn't realize it was that bad. Still, she said, “Yuki will take care of that!” Grabbing Molly's shoulder and looking into her eyes, she said, “But we can't fight him without you. Troy's not going to last.”

Molly looked at Sho, hammering Troy with a spell. Troy had been lucky to avoid major damage, but he had been hit several times and was slowing down, making him an easier target.

“I'll watch Kurt. Just please help Troy!” Renee pleaded.

Troy continued to fight on, mechanically casting spell after spell on Sho. They kept hitting and Sho kept feeling them, but he wouldn't go down. Despite this, Troy persisted and Molly couldn't help but focus on him. His face was blank, somewhere between scared and witless. Like he was fighting simply because he didn't know what else to do. Which is never a good sign: Molly stepped forward and started forming a whopper of an energy blast, one that did knock Sho over when it connected.

This time, Sho did stay down for a moment, reeling at the pain. Molly stood in place and watched him suffer, almost enjoying it. He responded by slamming his hand into the ground, the force of which knocked both her and Troy over. It also destroyed the spike below Kurt. As he fell, Renee was right there to cushion his impact with the dirt.

Donovan and Blaine had also gone back to work on Kamila. She too froze for a moment at Kurt's condition, giving Donovan an easy sneak attack. She never fully recovered from this. The combined efforts of master and minion were beginning to overwhelm her and she started to feel the pain that he was capable of inflicting. Clutching her left side with her right hand, she realized what this meant. Her next spell was teleportation.

She appeared next to her companion, shot a fireball to distract Troy and grabbed Sho's shirt. “Yuki broke the mark. Let's get out of here.”

Sho glared at her- not such a good idea as Molly's next shot leveled him. He jumped up angrily, but Kamila held him back. “Come on!” she shouted. As Molly charged up another spell, Sho finally relented and allowed Kamila to teleport both of them away. Molly fired her blast into the tree behind them anyway.

“We're letting them go?” Troy asked unhappily. Molly didn't answer. She was already back at Kurt's side. Troy approached her... approached Kurt, suddenly humbled at just how lifeless he looked. “Oh jeez, is he...” He couldn't fathom what Kurt could have been.

Molly's hand shook as she took his pulse. “No,” she mumbled, her fear choking her voice. “Not yet anyway.”

Troy lunged forward, grabbing Molly's shoulder and jerking her back. “What do you mean? We can save him right?”

She glared back. Angry at his gesture, angrier at the situation. “We can't. It's going to be up to-”

“I'm back!” Yuki shouted, triumphant. “I did it! I disabled the...”

Molly, Troy and Renee stared back at her. For all her work with the mark, she hadn't done anything yet.

 

Session Five

Rifling through her satchel this time, Yuki knew she had everything necessary inside. But after working so hard to remove the mark, she was twice as stressed. She was so relieved to have come through already that she expected that to be the end. In fact, after her success in the dark room, she took a few moments to collect herself and decompress. Her return trip to the field wasn't as fast as she could have run. Now with Kurt in such bad shape, all she could think about was how precious those lost seconds were.

On her knees in front of Kurt, she tried not to gag at the sight of the blood. Turning away, she started her mixing process. Molly, Troy and Renee hovered over her.

“Is this going to take long?” Troy asked, now almost as harried as Molly.

“Troy!” Molly barked, startling both him and Yuki. “You and Donovan stand guard in case they come back.”

He frowned at her, but her glare won out. With little more than a grumble, he walked over to Donovan and Blaine. Donovan stood silent, arms folded and staring into the distance. Blaine looked around to guard against a sneak attack from any other direction.

With him gone, Molly turned to Yuki. “This better not take long.”

“I put a stasis spell on him, so that should buy us some time,” Renee said quietly.

Now Molly narrowed her eyes at Renee. “When did you learn a stasis spell?”

“Oh, uh... well...”

As Renee tried to remember, Yuki shouted, “Please let me work!”

Her hands trembled, her breathing strained as she tried to portion and pour her assorted powders. She glanced at Kurt reflexively, turning back when she saw how high the stakes were. Was this potion even going to be enough? Should she attempt something stronger, even if she wasn't entirely confident in her skill to make it?

Molly and Renee hovered over her shoulder, watching her every motion. She couldn't ask them. They weren't up on proper crafting technique and none of the three girls were calm enough to make a rational choice. “What's wrong?” Molly said, urgently.

Yuki gasped and returned to her work. “Nothing!” she blurted. This part was the same anyway. At least she thought it was the same. There may have been another step in the more advanced potion earlier that she skipped. She was tired and forgot to take notes during that lecture at the academy. But she got it right during lab... that one time... in a controlled environment. She forced herself to look at Kurt again. No, the basic healing potion wasn't going to cure all that. Technically, she was taught how to do what was necessary and that's what the situation called for.

She increased her proportions according to what she remembered. For one moment, she began to feel more comfortable. An intuition told her that what she was doing felt right. This did not reach Molly, bothered with how long this was taking. “My usual potion probably won't be strong enough,” Yuki explained.

“You sure you know how to do the next one?” Molly asked. Yuki didn't answer. She continued working, trying not to focus on her supervisor.

Renee set two fingers on Kurt's neck. As Yuki toiled on, Renee's worry grew. “Yuki...” she murmured.

“There!” Yuki shouted, practically defiant. She held up the potion, took a deep breath, pursed her lips to the cusp of the vial and exhaled.

The concoction blew up in her face.

As she tried not to breathe in the acrid smoke, some of which had already collected on her cheeks, Yuki froze. The explosion did little to boost her confidence in this potion. While she stalled, Molly rushed in, grabbed the vial from Yuki and crawled over to Kurt. Renee had carefully raised Kurt's head and opened his mouth.

When Yuki did recover, batting her eyes to get the smoke out, she turned to them. “Molly, you just have to-”

“I know how to do this!” Molly spat, pouring the potion down Kurt's throat.

There were always a few seconds of delay before a potion would kick in. This one was no longer than any of the others, but the wait was excruciating. This was the moment of truth; any other treatment, magical or otherwise, would be too late to treat a wound like this. Molly and Yuki stared intently as Renee bowed her head.

Kurt winced, stirring a little. His eyes opened slowly, gritting his teeth as he raised his head a little. He faced the girls, reeling as he forced himself to speak.

With a painful breath, he whispered, “You tried.” He fell back to the ground, eyes closing.

“No!” Molly cried, crawling up to him. She cradled his head, shook his shoulders, anything to get him to wake again. Kurt's eyes remained closed. She lifted his arm; it fell limp. She tried again; when it fell again, she shook him harder.

Renee rushed forward, setting her hands on Molly's shoulders. Her voice rushed, she said, “Molly, calm down. There's got to be...” She stopped and felt Kurt's neck for a pulse. There was none. Hand shaking, she tried elsewhere on the neck... she wasn't trained or anything; maybe her fingers were on the wrong spot.

No matter where she felt, she felt nothing. Her hand jerked away and dove under his body and found his heart. Renee felt his mass pressed heavily on her fingers and the wet, warm flow of blood. She did not feel a heartbeat. Pulling away, she stared at horror at her crimson-stained hand. It trembled; she trembled as she lost the power to deny that Kurt was dead.

Molly lunged forward, her head finding Renee's shoulder and her arms clinging to her sister's back. Ignoring the blood on her hand, Renee clutched Molly as the elder sister cried. Renee was too mortified to weep: she struggled to grasp that this was really happening and that her inexorable guardian had been reduced to open tears.

Yuki remained paralyzed. She kept looking around, expecting someone else to rush in with the magic spell that would fix everything. None came. Her savior had already acted, and now he was lying lifeless in front of her. Already on her knees, her legs gave way. Her arm braced her, but that too collapsed and she fell forward. Buried in her hands, her forehead reached the ground. There she would hide until all this ended.

Looking over his shoulder, Troy remained quiet, assuming Molly and Yuki would handle everything the way they always seemed to. Now he didn't know what to do. One glance at Donovan told him staying on guard was wrong. He rushed in and nudged Kurt's arm and head. Everything Renee had already tried. Troy backed up, staring at Kurt's body as Molly Pearson cried in Renee's arms. Like Renee, he barely had time to register that they had been in a battle for their lives, much less that one of them had lost it.

Blaine looked over his shoulder too. “Um... sir...” he said, quiet. “I... I, uh... I don't think he made it.” He stared forward, breathing heavily.

Donovan did not look at the scene. He held his poise, narrowed his eyes and continued to keep watch.

“Those fiends will pay for this,” he muttered.

 

Session Six

Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, the skiing conditions were terrible. Kathryn and Marie gave the slopes a fair shot, testing a few bunny runs before writing them off as if they lived on the hills and didn't have time for any conditions less than ideal. They decided they'd have much more fun in the lodge while Kathryn's parents stuck it out. After all, they paid for the trip.

“Why are you shaking your hips like that?” Marie asked as her companion strutted through the lodge. Both were still wearing their ski outfits and Kathryn filled hers out quite nicely.

Kathryn chuckled. “I'm wondering why you're not. C'mon, girls' night out.”

“It's two in the afternoon.” Marie looked over her shoulder and shuddered. “That guy back there's been checking you out all day.” Kathryn simply laughed.

They found a sofa to share and plopped down. Immediately, said guy made his move. “Hey, how's your day been?”

Trying not to laugh, Kathryn smiled back. “Been great. Slopes are awful and I didn't feel like skiing anyway. And you?”

“Getting better every second. So just you two today?”

“Yep. We're totally unsupervised.” Kathryn's smile grew. So did Marie's look of horror.

The guy's eyes widened. “Really? Can I get you a pop or something?”

“No.” Kathryn's smile didn't waver.

He tried not to flinch. “No?”

“No, we're good.”

Trying desperately to cling to something, he asked, “But you're not with anybody?”

Kathryn wrapped an arm around Marie's shoulder. “I'm with Marie.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah...” She raised her eyebrows suggestively. “I do.”

That froze him. Heck, that froze Marie too. He stumbled away without another word and Kathryn burst into laughter. “Now this is fun!” she exclaimed.

Marie tried to remember how to breathe. “What was that about?”

“That was about as fun as turning down a perv gets.”

“If that's how you wanted to spend the day, wouldn't you rather bring Kamila?”

“Nah, if it was Kamila, we'd probably end up with somebody. You're smart enough to keep things from getting too crazy. With her, all bets are off.”

Suddenly serious, Marie faced Kathryn. “You wouldn't seriously do anything like that, would you?”

Caught in a very frank question, Kathryn cooled down. “Well... no, I don't think so, but... I don't know.”

“You don't know? Is it really that bad with Kurt?”

Kathryn chuckled defensively. “Oh, no, it's just...” She leaned forward and looked down. Now that Marie had called her out, she really didn't have an answer. It wasn't that bad, and yet... “No, I really don't know. Guess I'm just like that.”

“You just like the attention?”

Slowly, Kathryn nodded. “I guess so. Reminds me that he'd be an idiot to leave.” She shrugged. “And really, once I get out here I realize how silly I'm being. So Molly's okay letting her guard down around him. So what? Maybe I can get some dirt on her.”

Marie smiled. Kathryn pointed to herself. “Really, is he leaving this... for Pearson?”

Strange, shallow logic, perhaps, but it kept her going. And if flirting with random ski lodge trolls was the path to enlightenment, she had no problem leading the way. Lack of actual skiing aside, the trip did make Kathryn feel much better.

“Yeah, we know what we've got. We're fine,” Kathryn concluded. Marie nodded back, with reverence. “And I think Troy knows what he's got in you,” Kathryn added.

Marie frowned. “You think so?”

“If he really wanted to be with Renee, he'd have made his move already. And I'd have kicked his ass already. But he cares about you. No matter what she tries, he still sticks with you because he knows what he's got and doesn't want you to get hurt.”

That brought out a smile. “That's true. I'm still worried though. I mean, Renee's a lot more...” Marie gestured at Kathryn's figure. “...than me or Molly.”

“Nah, I've seen her. Renee's a B-cup at best.”

Now Marie blushed. “That's not what I meant. Well, maybe part of it, but... oh, you know what I mean.”

Kathryn shook her head. “And you know Troy's not like that. Give him credit for keeping his hormones in check. You two don't really go for all the naughty stuff anyway.”

Marie's face reddened. “Well... no, not really. I'm not sure about it and he hasn't brought it up much.”

“See?” Kathryn smiled. “You and Troy go well together. I really think you've got a shot.”

“What do you mean?” The blush disappeared, but now Marie was confused. “I mean, it's a little early to be thinking we'll get married or anything.”

Pausing, Kathryn rephrased it. “Who said anything about that? I just like your chances of making it through school with him. Survive high school and who the hell knows?”

“Oh.” Calming down, Marie asked, “Is it wrong to not think about forever? Because we don't really do that. We just focus on enjoying what we've got now, and that's enough.”

“Hell yeah. That's the best way to do it. That's all Kurt and I do.”

“That's not surprising,” Marie said, chuckling.

Kathryn grinned back. “Yeah, there's no way Kurt and I would get married. I mean even if we were thinking about it, he's got his work here. I'm working on a basketball scholarship. I want to go into coaching. There's no way it works out. So why stress out over it?”

“The way you've been doing?” noted Marie, raising her eyebrows.

“True,” Kathryn acknowledged. “But yeah, we're together because it makes life better for us. Who cares about a year from now? Right now, I just love having the guy around.” She stretched her arms back, returning to her contentment. “Yep, all you gotta do is try your damnedest to hang on to a good thing. And enjoy it while you've got it.” Shaking her head at the serenity within it, she turned back to Marie. “Because you never know when it's going to be over.”


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VOLUME: 4

CHAPTER: 9

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