fancy hiding place that would keep the group safe from the
Hageshoni attack turned out to be in a storage closet next to
Claude's desk. No, it wasn't actually some gigantic ready room
where they could all wait in secure luxury. It was six kids
crammed into a room designed to hold, at most, one person and a
bunch of office supplies. When Molly closed the door it was
dark, uncomfortable, and Donovan still insisted on standing with
his hands on his hips.
we've got to hide in here?” Troy moaned.
isn't even that good a hiding place. You know this'll be the
first place they go,” Kathryn said.
“Agreed,” added Donovan. “If we are this desperate we may as
well attack head on.”
how come the student council gets red staplers while teachers
have to settle for the boring black ones?” Renee asked.
tried to crane her neck to look over. “How can you see what
color the staplers are? It's pitch black.”
goofy smile, Renee held up her light ball. “Magic,” she said.
that out!” Molly barked. Renee did immediately. “They may be
monitoring magic use to find us. No spells.”
isn't it already too late? Shouldn't we move?” Kathryn asked.
said we were staying?”
dark, Molly felt around the wall for a panel and opened the
cover. A sharp red laser light emerged from it. She stared into
the beam, typing ten digits on the revealed keypad. The retina
scan completed and beeped its approval.
entire room descended like an elevator. “What's going on?!” Yuki
Molly said calmly. “It's perfectly safe. Claude worked all the
bugs out of it years ago.” A jolt shook the closet carriage. One
of the staplers fell off the shelf and onto Troy's head. “More
or less,” Molly added.
descent, and corresponding rumbling, stopped. Molly opened the
door and they found themselves in a modestly-lit room, with area
rugs covering the cement floor in places. In a corner of the
room, several lounge chairs surrounded an old coffee table.
Bookshelves lined the opposite wall. Hallways led in three
spilled out, happy to get some air, musty as it was. “Where are
we?” Troy asked, marveling at the furnishings.
basement,” Molly said, approaching a phone on the credenza
behind the chairs.
lie!” Donovan shouted. “There is no basement in this school. My
minions and I have scoured it endlessly in search of the
legendary treasure buried beneath.”
narrowed an eye at him. “This is the basement and we uncovered
the legendary treasure two years ago.”
part of 'no magic' did you not understand!!” Molly snapped back.
glared at her. “I was merely summoning my minion.”
uses magic to get here. Besides, the fewer people that know
about this, the better.” Looking around, Molly made sure
everybody knew this applied to the whole group. “This place is
for council members only. You are not to speak of it to anybody
else. And no magic means no magic. They could still find us.”
how do we know when it's safe to go back up?” Renee asked.
working on that.” Molly picked up the phone and dialed a number.
With a push of another button, Uriel could broadcast to
they passed this to me so listen up. They're surrounding the
perimeter and have a few small squads roaming around. You're
good for now.”
plopped down in a chair. “I can handle this.”
leaned back against the credenza and sighed. “For now. I won't
be happy until they leave.”
was busy exploring the hallways. “Where do these other halls
her eyes, Molly answered, “I'm not entirely sure. Claude comes
down here more than I do.”
Claude shows up?” Yuki asked.
“Thankfully, we don't have to deal with that. The flu got him
are the odds Kamila and Sho are with them?” Troy asked, seated
next to Kathryn, elbows on his knees.
are,” Uriel answered. “Both of them.”
“Dammit.” Troy sunk lower. “I wouldn't mind a piece of them.”
it, Troy,” Kathryn said. “Don't even think about it.”
wouldn't mind a piece of them either,” Molly replied. Kathryn
and Troy both looked at her, surprised. When she returned their
glances, she quickly added, “But Kathryn's right. Nothing gained
from getting ourselves killed too.”
not gaining us anything either!” Donovan shouted.
giving us time,” Molly said. “Should be all we need.”
Molly?” Uriel asked. “Where did you say that entrance was?”
Council office. Storage closet.”
that's where they are,” Uriel replied, “The storage closet.”
elevator hummed as the supply room raised back to the main
floor. After a brief pause, it descended.
jumped up and stared at it. “No way...”
you mean...” Troy stared. Actually, everyone stared.
Donovan. “Perhaps we have a challenge yet.”
know how you have that set up there, but there's eight guys in
there so you'd better run,” Uriel said.
out to the center of the room, Molly barked, “Okay, split up.
Evade the demons by any means necessary. Rendezvous at the
Monroe house as soon as you can teleport.”
moved. Molly turned to all of them. “Now!”
way are you running?” Yuki asked.
readied her trigger, pointed at the elevator. “Someone's got to
hold them off.”
Molly!” Renee shouted.
handle it. Go.”
grabbed Renee's wrist; Kathryn grabbed Yuki's. They and Donovan
ran in separate directions as the carriage arrived and the door
swung open. The moment it did, Molly fired a bolt of energy
inside, strong enough to strike anyone in the carriage. Without
waiting for response, Molly turned around and started to run.
Madam President,” came a familiar voice from the elevator. It
froze her. Any thought of escape escaped when she heard his
voice. She slowly turned around and faced Claude.
his shield down and stared back at her. “Two of you stay with
me; the rest go after the others,” he ordered.
didn't behave any differently than he usually did. He still
stood upright, tall and skinny, with a smarmy half-grin. His
poise signaled his quiet self-satisfaction in executing
insidious plots, without the cockiness that good underlings
withheld. To him, it was just another assignment from his
superiors, albeit slightly flashier with just a little more
firepower than the usual student council muscle. The superiors,
of course, had changed dramatically.
letter of resignation is on your desk, Madam President. That
will take care of any conflict of interest,” he said. He didn't
inflect sarcasm well and, for all Molly knew, he wasn't trying
remained poised to fire at him or either of his companions.
don't look surprised,” Claude said.
stared back. She was completely dumbfounded. She just wasn't
giving him the satisfaction of seeing it. “Have the Hageshoni
really been watching us this whole time?”
chuckled. “No, just since Kamila enrolled.”
figured it out immediately. This time, she couldn't withhold her
gasp. Molly thought she had been rid of them. Perhaps it was a
naive notion that saying 'no' often enough would get them to
leave her alone. Kendrick couldn't scare them away, nor could
the Zukoni or the Chioni. All they had to do was lay low until
they could get the stage to themselves again. What better way to
watch and wait than by serving directly under her?
enjoyed her reaction. “If you don't want to be allied to the
Urayoni, then the Urayoni will simply ally with you.”
in a Hageshoni goon squad after us doesn't seem very ally-like,”
“Well...” that caught him for a moment. He fumbled for the
words. “I meant allied before. Doing your student council
bidding, you know. Circumstances have changed our plans a
little. Besides, we've never been opposed to the occasional
grant you that. So do you really plan to fight me?”
“Absolutely.” He smiled. “But why leave yourself out in the open
like this while the others run off? You should be cowering in
fear like your kids.”
stood firm, trigger still readied. “I am their guardian before I
am your prey.”
of you are our prey, Madam,” Claude said. “You just volunteered
to go first.”
warning, a book slammed Molly in the side of the head. It
knocked her back, making her look for an assailant as soon as
she could. Now the telephone was heading her way. She barely
avoided it and turned to Claude and his men. Only two were left-
the rest sent to pursue the others. Neither of the pair
remaining, nor Claude, had moved.
took two steps forward. Molly quickly fired a weak energy ball
at him. He jumped out of the way and said, “Gentlemen, guard the
exits. Make sure she doesn't escape. Hate to waste the chance to
take her on alone.”
fired again. With nothing more than a step back, he let a shield
absorb it. Again, he lifted a book and launched it at her. It
hit the side of her back and hurt like hell, but she tried not
to show it. Prepping for another attack spell, she turned once,
switching to a flight spell to avoid a globe.
are you planning to do up there?” Claude asked. The ceilings
were low and there was little room to maneuver. He kept the
globe afloat, targeting her with quick darting motions. She
dodged each time, but barely. After ducking low to the ground,
she landed and blew the globe up with a spell of her own.
levitated a folding chair in response, but this time she was in
position to see it. She charged another attack up, knocking it
to the ground before it ever really took off.
ball of pure energy struck Molly in the thigh, knocking her
over. She couldn't ignore this pain. Clutching her leg, she
grimaced at Claude, who smiled back.
don't have to go easy on me, Madam.”
stood up and fired again. Again, a shield appeared seemingly out
of nowhere. Now she was getting frustrated. How was this
possible? All of Claude's moves seemed elementary; she knew all
the same ones. But he executed them without an apparent trigger.
He didn't telegraph anything, making it difficult for her to
focus for a moment, just barely seeing the energy ball flying at
her. Molly shielded just in time. Keeping her shield up, she
took several steps back. Positioning herself with her back near
the wall and with plenty of room to dodge random flying objects,
she waited. If Claude had any other tricks, she was going to
make him pull them out here. Everything else she was ready for.
Seemingly dismayed at her lack of movement, he stepped forward
and waited. She didn't budge.
hiding in a corner?” he said. “That doesn't get anything
still here. Good enough,” she replied. Much as she would have
loved to defeat him, simply escaping was reward enough. Thanks
to Claude's guards, the only open exit was through the elevator
back to the office. He was blocking that path on his own.
continued to approach her, once pausing to test her shield with
a projectile spell. It held. Since she maintained the shield,
Claude stood right in front of her. “Please. I've been watching
you for years. Before we humiliate you in all sorts of
delightful ways, I want to see what the fuss is about.” With a
slight smile, he asked, “So, if only to oblige me after years of
loyal service... what makes you so special?”
cornered, Molly had no choice but to respond. For a moment, she
thought to drop her shield and fire back with something truly
awesome. Then she noticed Claude's right leg lean back slightly,
brushing up against his left. It was subtle and barely
detectable- undoubtedly his trigger. So she demonstrated her
full might and kicked him in the shin.
hobbled over, momentarily unable to fire anything. She dropped
her shield and cast flight to make a beeline for the elevator.
None of the guards moved. She was home free.
she ran into the invisible barrier Claude had long-since
established. Molly fell to the floor, dazed. Without looking,
she threw up a shield spell, feeling it absorb an attack from
behind before she had the chance to see it. Clutching her head
with her free hand, she spun around and looked back. Claude was
back on his feet. He seemed to be happier now.
more like it, Madam,” he said.
remaining five split off into different directions. Kathryn and
Yuki ran as far as they could through the basement until they
reached a dead end. Thankfully, the end of the hall had an
elevator. Even better, the return trip didn't require student
council approval. They rode it back up, only to find a blue
grating directly above them. Just before they thought to duck,
it slid into a slot in the wall and granted them access to the
platform above them.
realized where they were immediately. The gymnasium had a small
platform on each side of the floor for videotaping basketball
games. In fact, below them, a gym class continued normally: boys
and girls pelted each other with dodgeballs like nothing else
was going on. Unfortunately, this dodgeball game was not a
spectator sport and none of the bleachers were pulled out. So
Kathryn and Yuki were stuck up there.
fly us down there?” Yuki asked.
with those kids,” Kathryn replied.
in displacement. They won't notice a thing.”
winced. “Still, it's... weird, you know? Besides, didn't Molly
say something about not giving our position away?”
do we get down?”
response, Kathryn grabbed the top row of bleachers, found a
toehold and began a slow and steady descent. Yuki moaned in
displeasure and followed, trying not to look down at the
vertical drop. At one point, Kathryn dropped her staff to the
bottom. It was unharmed, but the nasty clang made Yuki even more
reached the bottom with no trouble; the stands were but a
wall-climbing exercise to her. She picked up her staff and took
a few steps back to give Yuki room and words of encouragement.
“Come on, just a bit more!” she shouted.
I fall?!” Yuki was still ten feet off the ground.
thanks to an errant ball that caromed off her arm. Yuki lost her
grip and fell back. “Yuki!” Kathryn shouted, lunging forward to
try to catch her.
would not have gotten there in time had she not raised her
staff. Right before Yuki hit the ground, she sprang back up into
the air, then fell gracefully into Kathryn's arms.
for not using magic,” Yuki joked, smiling up at Kathryn.
part about being in the gym was the row of doors leading
outside. Once through there, they would be home free. They ran
to the exit, threw the doors open and froze at the sight of four
large men with police batons. Two of them used the batons to
launch fireballs at Kathryn, who ducked back into the gym in
think we can go that way,” Yuki said.
room,” Kathryn mumbled. If there were any exits the Hageshoni
would fail to cover adequately, the small access doors in each
of the locker rooms would qualify. In fact, Kathryn planned to
be extra sneaky and use the door in the boys' locker
room. That thought ended when they reached the hallway and found
three more demons standing in front of it. They dashed after
her. Kathryn grabbed Yuki's wrist and dashed back at them,
batting down a fireball and hoping to reach the girls' room
It was a
tie. Kathryn rammed into them, knocked one over with her staff
and angled towards the door. Hitting another for good measure,
she spun around and pulled the door open. Nobody was on the
other side; she was home free.
she could enter, the third Hageshoni latched onto Yuki's arm and
started tugging. Kathryn lost her hold at first, but spun
around, lunged forward and reclaimed the girl's hand, with one
foot propping the door open.
“Kathryn!” Yuki shouted. She winced as the demon on the ground
clutched her leg. He jabbed his free hand into the floor,
rattling the ground underneath. Kathryn struggled to bear it
while maintaining a grip on Yuki. The first demon made it worse,
lashing his baton into Yuki's back repeatedly, adding another
blow to the head, knocking her out.
Kathryn gave up on the door and brought her staff around to
deliver some vengeance. The remaining demon turned to her and
fired a powerful wind gust. Kathryn lost Yuki, lost her footing
and flew backwards, through the door and into the locker room.
jumped up and sprinted back to the door. Before she could get
there, a wall of fire rose in front of the entrance. Kathryn
barely stopped in time. She stuck her hand through it, but
couldn't fight off the pain long enough and pulled it back
before it burned off. “Yuki!” she shouted again, raising her
staff in frustration. In what seemed like an instant, she was
you'd try to get out this way,” Kamila said. Kathryn spun
around. There she was, dressed like all those other faceless
demons and standing in front of the exit. As usual, her face was
tight and intense. All the anger she usually projected was now
directed straight back at Kathryn. Kathryn didn't know what to
do with it.
demon shook her head, keeping her eyes focused. “Hate that you
gotta see me like this, Kat. I always thought you were pretty
the fire, Kathryn's eyebrows narrowed. “Don't start that. What
the hell are you and why the hell did you do it?”
vile snicker, Kamila answered caustically. “I'm a demon. Always
have been, always will be. I came here because my orders were to
put a mark in Donovan's room and keep tabs on you. We killed
Kurt because our orders were to do so. And now I'm here because
my orders are not to let you leave.”
when did you listen to people?”
now, Kamila replied, “I don't. I listen to my faction. You got
no idea how much it sucks to fight you, but...” She finished by
scorching Kathryn's back with the flames.
fell forward, rolling to both dodge an attack from Kamila and
douse her inflamed shirt. Once the fire was out, she jumped back
up, her staff readied. Her back ached already and her clothes
were badly singed; the back of her shirt had already lost pieces
still smiled back. “So I guess the question is whether you can
follow orders and fight me like a good little soldier.”
soldier? Kathryn snarled. She was not an unthinking soldier of
the MST, and refused to let that stand. Yet, the only way she
could respond was by proving Kamila true. She charged in and
attacked. Kamila jumped back, hitting Kathryn's sleeve with a
small fire spell. Kathryn extinguished it with her palm and
lunged. Good and evil were at it again.
went alone, but managed to find an elevator upstairs. He arrived
in a main hallway, guarded by a pair of Hageshoni. They fired
upon him. He fired back with all the might of his inner demon.
His foes didn't last long. Donovan wasn't even in a hurry to
escape, strutting down the hall slowly, mocking the demons at
hiding spot was less than surprising. The intruder already
inside the dark room was more of a shock.
Donovan,” Kendrick said. He was admiring the dark gray burn mark
in the wall, the outline of the former Hageshoni marking
not a good time,” Donovan replied, trying to lock the door
through magic. He soon realized he had never learned that spell.
obliged him. Looking at his hand, Kendrick said, “I know using
magic will give myself away, but seeing as how you're all a
little busy I don't see the point in holding back.”
brushed past Kendrick wordlessly and sat at the head of the
table, staring at the door. Kendrick set his hands on his hips.
“Don't you want to know why I'm here?”
need. Soon the demons will be marching into my trap. They will
fall like dominoes.”
looked at the door. “And what trap would that be?”
trickery. I shall destroy them with my bare hands.”
rolling his eyes, Kendrick sat down at the table. Considering
the circumstances, the room was very quiet. They didn't speak;
both expected the Hageshoni to burst through the door any moment
and start a massive firefight.
as the minutes passed and the immediate threat didn't seem so
impending, Kendrick sighed and said, “Donovan, what is it you're
really after in life?”
conquest,” he replied simply.
nodded. “Enslaving or destroying?”
paused, then turned to Kendrick. Kendrick was surprised that he
had to elaborate, but was happy to. “Because that makes all the
difference, you know. They say enslaving is harder, but I
disagree. The world is a pretty big place; destroying it on your
own would be nearly impossible. You'd need networks,
arrangements to help facilitate things. Best path would be to
incite some conflicts and let the natives do your job for you.
It's about catching every corner of the world in a moment of
weakness. At least with enslaving the world you can start small
and work your way up, gaining allies and resources as you go.
Try to destroy the world and everybody rises against you very
the use in destroying the world?” Donovan said, derisive. “Where
are the millions forced at your feet, completely under your
power? That is the joy of conquest.”
true,” Kendrick said, smiling. He missed this kind of light
chit-chat. “But you also have to manage it. Do you have any idea
how hard it is to maintain a worldwide network of death legions?
A logistical nightmare. And keeping them all loyal while
exercising your whim? Shame to put all that work in and lose it
all to a simple coup.”
seemed to seriously ponder this over. “And destruction?”
amusing hobby. I'd like to try it sometime.” Kendrick stared at
the door. He wasn't chit-chatting anymore. “Something I can't do
with the Hokoni.”
Snickering, Donovan said, “So you acknowledge that your faction
looked at the remnants of the marking, Donovan's rack of crap,
then the door. “Strangely enough, I do.”
wonder why I keep spurning your offers. Your faction is weak. At
least these Hageshoni make an entrance.”
Kendrick was derisive. “If you call bulls in a china shop an
entrance. Are they getting any results?”
glared at Kendrick. The demon raised an eyebrow. “All this
effort and you're still here. They're not doing so well, are
they don't have enough power,” Donovan replied.
sighed, resting an elbow on the table. “I think we can both
concede that our world domination bids are not going according
to plan under our present employers. Agreed?”
Taskforce seems intent on world domination, but I am merely a
pawn to them.”
perhaps if we were to join forces... independent of our
faced Kendrick again. This offer seemed more intriguing- more
chaotic than demonic. Joining the Hokoni was never a
possibility, but an independent operation had potential. It was
something to mull over.
it would be if an explosion hadn't destroyed the door. Donovan
fired, as promised, but the first Hageshoni to enter had a stone
shield and the attacks did nothing. More shots from Donovan
meant no results. More demons entered, all brandishing shields
of some sort.
flank followed. These had fireballs. Donovan took aim at them,
but the front row defended his shots while the back row fired at
everything they could. Donovan, Kendrick, the table, the rack.
Jars exploded, phony animal humors and organs fell to the floor.
The place reeked of formaldehyde and whatever was used to
preserve his crap.
“Donovan!” Kendrick shouted, throwing a shield up in front of
them both. Donovan fired at the Hageshoni, a shot that
ricocheted off the shield and struck the wall behind them.
“There's only one way use get out of here and it's not through
“Nonsense! We fight!” Donovan yelled as shots hammered against
“Donovan, if you are to survive, it will be through me. After I
count to three, I'm going to drop my shield. When I do, you will
grab my left hand.”
have stifled teleportation.”
shot him a look. “I know. That's why you need me. One...”
turned to Kendrick, who stared back at the Hageshoni coldly.
looked at the Hageshoni, setting the table on fire as they
advanced on the pair.
took Kendrick's hand. Kendrick nullified the shield, cast a new
spell, turned around and stepped forward.
and Kendrick walked through the wall, leaving the Hageshoni in
the burning dark room.
did you two come from?” asked the principal.
with Molly?” Renee replied uncertainly as she and Troy walked
out of the filing cabinet in his office. The principal nodded
and returned to his work.
demons in the hallway weren't so accommodating. Renee shielded
the first wave of attacks and Troy knocked down one with an ice
use water,” Renee said, lowering her shield to let Troy do so.
His strong stream of water was a mere bother to the other two
demons in front of them, but Renee charged up a miniature
cyclone, incapacitating them in a waterspout.
smiled. “Not bad.” He and Renee ran past them and down the hall,
stopping before they turned a corner to make sure they were in
the clear before sprinting.
from here on, no magic!” said Renee.
we're spotted anyway,” Troy muttered as they snuck into the
teacher's lounge. In the corner, he found their ideal hiding
spot, made even better when he maneuvered a pair of the
teachers' beer kegs. The two could not be spotted from the
a slight crack where he could see the window; he smiled as a
Hageshoni peered through it and continued along. They didn't
even realize the biggest advantage of this room: there were no
security cameras. Since Claude had granted his fellow demons
access to the monitors, it was a serendipitous blessing.
now?” Renee asked.
deep breath, Troy replied, “Now we have to figure out how to get
out of here.”
the obvious statement, Renee took offense. “What do you mean?”
can't just run off and leave Molly back there!”
blinked twice. “Why not? She told us to.”
was already on her knees, but seemed to sink lower. “This is
exactly what I was talking about. She's a sitting duck down
there alone. These guys are all probably after her anyway.”
welled as she considered the possibilities. After what had
happened to Kurt, how could she not fear the worst?
told us to-”
going to kill her, Troy!” she shouted, silencing him. “Don't you
get it? She doesn't want us throwing ourselves in front of her.
So she's leaving herself open like that.”
she's giving us a chance to get out,” Troy reiterated. “We all
stick together and we all might be dead. There's no way we can
take them on ourselves.”
you don't care about her,” Renee sobbed. “I know she's put you
through a lot and I know I let her. But she's still my sister.
And I still love her. And I'm going back for her.”
back against the kegs. He needed to look away from her for a
moment. Before responding to what she said, he had to decide if
any of it was really true. Why did he feel so compelled to leave
Molly to die like this? Was he really as cold to her as Molly
was to him? No... because for all the times she had made his
life miserable, he saw how badly she was trying to save it right
you say I don't care?” Troy replied. “She's sacrificing herself
to let us get out of here. I can't even begin to understand
what's going through her head. All I know is that no matter how
much Molly and I hate each other, when it comes to being our
guardian, she's never let us down. I say we do what she says and
get the hell out of here.”
stared back, awed by the sudden, though still begrudging,
respect he had for Molly. It was enough to accept his judgment.
“All right then,” she said. It was not enough to change her
mind, however. “But I'm still going in to save her.”
sighed. After all that, he knew continuing to try to change her
mind would be a waste. “Do what you have to do. You know the
stairs by the cafeteria?”
lead to the roof. That's where I'm heading. I'll put up a wall
or something and wait for you and Molly. If you're not there in
five minutes...” He really didn't want to say the rest.
nodded anyway. “You've already stuck your neck out enough times
to save me before. I can't make you do it again because I want
to stick my neck out to save Molly.”
stood in unison and walked up to the door. Renee peered out the
window. She flinched as someone walked by, but it was only a
straggling freshman girl that had no idea what was going on.
Despite the danger Renee was throwing herself into, she pitied
going,” Troy said, rushed. Renee turned around and hugged him.
He clutched her tightly, reassuring her. Reassuring himself as
well. Only after he was satisfied did he pull away, look her in
the eyes and say, “Go.”
pulled the door open and sprinted to the cafeteria. A pair of
Hageshoni were on patrol, effectively guarding the student
council office. Renee dove behind a trash can, inching it closer
and closer to the office door each time their backs were turned.
weren't that stupid. Before Renee could move again, one of the
demons knocked the metal drum over. It collided with the floor,
spilled most of its contents and exposed Renee. As the Hageshoni
advanced, her reflexes kicked in and she fired a spell. Her
outstretched hand grazed the floor tiles and sent a bolt of
energy straight at the two attackers. Both of them lost their
balance and fell over as Renee jumped to her feet and ran
inside. She went straight for the storage closet.
flipped open the panel. She didn't question how the demons were
able to ride it down, or how she and Troy had been able to ride
it back up. She just stared into the light and let the machine
do the rest.
tried again, this time typing random numbers into the keypad.
The panel responded with a disapproving buzz. One more try, this
time trying Molly's birthday. It wanted more digits. Renee added
4-2. No luck. Finally, Renee shrugged and typed in
1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0. She felt a familiar rumbling and sighed in
relief as the elevator roared into action.
shaking propelled her forward and the door opened up back into
the student council office. The two Hageshoni were at the door
waiting for her. She put a shield up to block their attacks;
that much was easy. After that it got tricky. They were
unrelenting and stood between her and the only exit.
Furthermore, the batons that gave them added magic power still
functioned as a blunt object. To top it all off, Molly was still
down there staring down any number of awful fates while Renee
was helpless up here.
the demons shifted just slightly so his fire spells wouldn't
burn his partner quite so much. Renee didn't think; she just ran
at the opening, keeping her shield up. It wouldn't guard against
grabbing or bludgeoning, so she dove forward, somersaulting off
her left shoulder and careful not to move her right arm and drop
her spell. She got to her feet and turned around to see them
behind her. Just as one of them clubbed her in the leg.
fell to a knee, but kept her shield up. Despite the pain, she
picked herself up and ran, wincing with every step. She knew
they'd chase her, but she didn't care. If she wasn't destined to
save Molly, she was following Troy's lead and getting out of
reached the stairwell, but another demon was already there. He
was occupied trying to burn down a wall of ice blocking the
stairs from the hall. On the other side, Troy was on his knees,
determined to reinforce the ice protecting him. From the water
collecting around both of them and the thinning barrier, it
appeared to be a losing battle.
stepped closer, finally getting Troy's attention. As the demon
continued to melt the ice, Troy smiled and held up his trigger
finger, tapping the ice. She smiled back; this demon was in for
a surprise. Before Troy fired, his face turned to one of shock.
She would have heard him scream if not for her own as her
pursuers caught up and took out her other leg.
over, but the demons caught her arms and started to drag her
away. Troy knocked on the wall he himself created and yelled,
but Renee couldn't hear it. The pain overwhelmed her and even if
Troy could free her, she couldn't run. The demon melting Troy's
wall glanced at the commotion, then stood up and stared at Troy,
denying any thought of heroics.
Troy was occupied with Renee, the fire had intensified. No way
would Troy be able to keep the wall up now. As she faded out,
she wondered if Troy even wanted the wall to stay up. Either
way, if the wall collapsed, he was likely gone as well.
wasn't going to stand for that. Not after she'd already failed
to save Molly. With one mighty tug, she pulled her right hand
free of her captor and fired off a wind spell. She only held it
for a few seconds before her arm was pulled back, but it
extinguished the fire. With the wall, and Troy, now safe, he
stared back at her. She mouthed the word 'go,' right before a
baton blow to the head knocked her out completely.
Kathryn lunged after Kamila, there was no stopping her. She
hated all of this and was due to let out some anger. She hated
the MST for putting her loved ones in this spot. She hated the
demons for starting all this trouble. She hated Molly for
passively letting all these forces run around town unchecked.
Years of frustration were unleashed on Kamila, despite her being
only marginally responsible for any of it. That was okay;
Kathryn hated Kamila too.
was ready for Kathryn to blow. She was even looking forward to
it. She jumped back to avoid Kathryn's first strikes, then shot
a fireball in response. Kathryn batted it down. Kamila quickly
fired off three more. Kathryn barely flinched, swatting each of
them down like they were gnats. All the while, she kept
advancing, her teeth clenched and her eyes steeled in a way
Kamila had never seen. It was startling.
teammate, Kamila thought she had seen Kathryn at her strongest.
They both had game modes- faces and attitudes that grew
exponentially more intense the more heated the contest became
and the more dire the circumstances were. Kamila put everything
into it- the only way she could lash out against all the
problems in her world. She assumed Kathryn had always done the
same. Clearly, she was wrong.
Kathryn's relentless advances were beyond anything Kamila had
seen before. After a series of leaps and sidesteps, Kamila was
too slow in dodging an attack and the staff grazed her calf. It
stung all the same. Kamila hobbled to a far corner of the room
to buy a moment. Kathryn wasn't selling; she charged. Kamila
dropped to her knees as the staff clanged loudly against the
cement wall. With a wave of her left hand, she summoned a cloud
of smoke. As Kathryn coughed, she felt her legs give out as
Kamila drove her entire body forward, her feet propped against
the wall for support.
midst of the smoke, Kathryn planted her staff to the floor to
try to keep her balance. Kamila kicked it loose and Kathryn fell
to the ground. Before Kathryn could get up, Kamila shot a small
fireball at her. Kathryn yelped and rolled away to put it out.
She ended up with her back against another wall, several yards
from Kamila. The smoke drifted around the room, lingering over
both their heads.
fire doused, Kathryn used her staff to attempt to stand up, but
Kamila prevented it with a fire attack directly at Kathryn's
stomach. Again, Kathryn winced and fought to extinguish it.
Kamila wasted no time in firing again. Each attack made Kathryn
cry louder and stay down longer. Most of her upper body was
singed and her shirt was scorched beyond repair, ripped and torn
in several places. She breathed heavily and could only see
Kamila as low as her head hung. But she was still conscious, so
Kamila launched another fireball.
time, Kathryn got her staff in front of it, using it as a cane
to try to stand up. Kamila fired yet again; Kathryn blocked it
don't stop now, you're gonna get hurt,” Kamila spat, throwing
another fireball. Kathryn blocked it too, now standing on her
own. The look in her eyes hadn't changed; she was still as
ferocious as ever. Holding her staff out in front of her,
nothing anyone could throw at her was going to matter.
Regardless of what they were before, Kathryn was not going to
falter in front of anyone responsible for murder.
Try that again,” Kathryn muttered. Snarling, Kamila did, aiming
for Kathryn's feet. Kathryn swung her staff down and repelled
the fireball into the floor. Then she took a step toward Kamila.
Another fireball was knocked into the ceiling. Again, Kathryn
took a step. This time, Kamila held her arm up, putting some
charge into her attack. Kathryn stood back and waited for it.
Kamila fired a giant fastball directly at Kathryn's head.
Without flinching, Kathryn batted it right back. Kamila barely
dove out of the way.
moment, Kathryn struck. Although Kamila was able to evade the
staff, Kathryn punched the demon in the stomach with her other
hand, still driving forward and knocking Kamila off balance.
Kamila tried to put her arm up for a spell, but the staff came
back up, blocking the way. She clutched the staff with her left
arm, holding on as Kathryn tried to loosen it. This left both
unable to use magic, not that that stopped them from fighting.
finally lost her balance and fell forward, taking Kathryn with
her. On the way down, she kicked Kathryn in the gut, evening the
score until Kathryn landed on top of the demon. Though both
gripped the staff, each girl had three other limbs and made use
of all of them, kicking and clawing wherever they spotted an
opening. Both girls landed blows and both received injuries that
would make right-thinking kids call a halt. The only thing on
their minds was pulling the staff away.
Somewhere after Kathryn's broken nose and Kamila's leg almost
snapping in two, Kathryn was on her knees, pinning Kamila to the
floor. Kamila kneed Kathryn in the groin, but it didn't faze
her. Kathryn fought off everything, including what thoughts of
what to do next. With Kamila down like this, one good move could
knock her out completely. Instead, all Kathryn could do was
bleed on the Hageshoni.
moment of hesitation was all Kamila needed. She curled up her
legs and unleashed them hard against Kathryn's midsection.
Kathryn flew backward and crashed into the wall, losing the
staff along the way. Kamila slowly got to her feet and admired
her new toy.
grinned as Kathryn lied crumpled. “Not so tough without your
stick, are you?” She tapped her shoulder with the staff, then
swung it in front of her. Her spell created not just one
fireball, but dozens, rising up out of the floor slowly and
floating in wait for Kamila's command. Kamila gave it; every one
flew sharply at the helpless Kathryn.
followed was smoke. It lingered over the ceiling and obscured
Kathryn completely. Kamila wasn't sure if she was alive or dead.
Her smile faded and she looked at the staff in awe. If it was in
need of a new owner, she felt it her duty to fill the position
and held it out in front of her to get a feel for it.
when a hand descended from above and snatched it. Kamila pulled
it down and took Kathryn with. It killed the flight spell,
although Kathryn considered it a miracle she made it last as
long as she did without her focus item. A focus item she was
determined to get back.
tug-of-war began, she balled her right hand into a fist and held
it up, trying not to think about the demon trying to pull her
staff away or her efforts to prevent that. Kathryn dropped her
hand down like it was holding a hammer. From the large hunk of
rock that seemed to fall out of nowhere and strike Kamila's
shoulder, she may as well have been.
startling blow cost Kamila her concentration and the staff. Not
for long, however, as Kamila ran forward, tackling Kathryn into
the smoldering wall that received all those fireballs. Kathryn
stopped just before reaching it and stepped to her right. The
momentum carried Kamila into the smoking wall. Kamila shoved
back, charged and fired off a spell while Kathryn was still
standing directly in front of her.
Kathryn was swinging her staff forward at the same time. The
fireball didn't ricochet so much as it danced off of the staff
as it connected. As a result, both the staff and the fireball
reached Kamila at the exact same time. The staff fed the flame
as they each struck Kamila's chest. Kathryn devoted all of her
energy into the attack, and all that anger refused to stop, even
after the flaming staff broke through Kamila's rib cage. Kathryn
screamed. Kamila couldn't.
Eventually, Kathryn stopped. She couldn't penetrate any further.
The wall wouldn't let her. She pulled the staff out angrily,
only then noticing all the blood. Kamila fell onto her side in
one lifeless lump. Kathryn stared at her for a few seconds with
clenched teeth. In that time, she knew she didn't need to
still dripping from her nose and her staff, she turned around
and walked through the exit, the 'secret' access doors that were
supposed to make escape easy for her and Yuki. There were no
demons in sight, so she started running. Some surely saw her
along the way. Some yelled. Some probably fired a spell at her.
They didn't matter. Somewhere past the track, Kathryn lifted her
staff up. She teleported.
Suddenly, she was safe in Troy's room. She calmly walked down
the stairs, passing Ellen in the kitchen. Ellen stood up from
the radio and looked Kathryn over, her mouth agape. She couldn't
find any words to say. Kathryn's clothes were tattered and
stained with blood- some hers, some not. Leaning her staff
against a chair carefully, Kathryn continued past the living
room and into the bathroom. She fell to her knees and vomited.