the fortress was a bottomless shaft and not much else. Only half
of the party could fit on the platform atop it, and they
clutched the railing for dear life.
stairs?” Troy shouted. His voice echoed from below.
get in yet?” asked Cammy, somewhat annoyed at the delay.
more on here and we all fall to our death,” replied Kathryn.
I'll give them some room,” said Reggie, floating in midair. Troy
and Bryce did the same, letting everybody squeeze onto the
anyone supposed to get down...” Kathryn began to say. Then she
looked up at the three floating gentlemen. “You've gotta be
kidding me,” she muttered.
shrugged and joined the floaters. “Why hire someone to build
stairs when everybody on staff can fly?”
everyone else took flight, Kathryn sighed. “I suppose an
elevator is too much to ask?”
like the one the Chioni had?” Bryce replied.
point.” Kathryn joined them and they started a steady descent.
further down, Giles postulated, “Hey, what are the odds that
there's an army of demons waiting to kill us when we land?”
scratched his chin and pondered it- an odd sight in midair.
“Well, considering we're basically heading right back to the
front doors... and those were really well-guarded... and we only
took out a few of them last time... and not a whole lot of them
followed us up... I'd say pretty damn good. Why?”
we just passed a platform or something that might take us
somewhere else. I think we should use it.”
don't know where we're going anyway, so why not?” said Kathryn.
reversed course, headed up a few feet and found a platform
leading to a corridor back through the wall. It was dark, narrow
and creepy, but nobody stood in their way.
stretch forever, though, and light balls only illuminated so
much. Eventually, a speck of light at the end of the passage
grew until they reached their destination- another giant pit.
This time, they descended all the way. At the bottom, the found
two doors, some chairs, mahogany tables and a series of green
and silver pennants bearing an Urayoni coat of arms. Had it not
been for the way they'd arrived, it would have seemed like a
typical receiving room in the castle.
pick a door,” said Reggie. Instead, Candace and Carmen opened
each of them simultaneously. One led to a hallway back through
the wall with a slight incline. One led down in a different
shrugged. “It's up or down, I guess.”
said Giles. “They're probably either in a dungeon or a tower,
and we know what passes for a tower here.”
nodded. “Good enough for me.”
threw up another shield and they charged through the short ramp
to a narrow, dim hallway. They pressed forward and around random
corners, ignoring the many doors lining the path. Prisoners
wouldn't be held this close to the entrance, but barracks,
offices and more troublesome spots certainly could. Along the
way, they didn't see a soul.
came the fork in the hall. “Well, straight or left?” asked
Kathryn. Since nobody knew where they were, determining where
they were going was impossible. They guessed left and rounded
the corner, only to find the hall open up into a larger room. A
couple volunteers poked their heads in.
demons were seated at tables in what appeared to be a lounge
area next to a small canteen selling packaged breakfast foods.
Giles pulled his head back, but the shopkeeper noticed Crystal.
we're out of muffins!” he shouted.
demons at the table turned to face her, but waited for her
reaction. Crystal signed and shouted, “Damn!”
before the demons lost interest and went back to their card
game, the shopkeeper said, “Hey, I haven't seen your face around
here.” Crystal ducked her head back, but now the demons took a
closer look. When they saw that the girl had retreated, they got
up to investigate. Where Crystal had once been was now a brick
that's what they saw. Crystal pocketed her eyedropper and caught
up with the others, leaving her mirror behind. “Damn,” she
muttered, this time for real.
caught up, Troy had made an incredible discovery. “What is it?”
they following us?” Giles asked.
marveled at the diagram hung on the wall, particularly the tiny
'You Are Here' light. “It's a map of the fortress,” he said.
have been a recent addition to the facility, since it was
created electronically and encased in glass. Despite its
anachronistic appearance, it told the team where they were and
where they were going in the rectangular complex. The prison
lined the back of the fortress. They were moving in the right
direction, and were about halfway to their destination.
Giles and Troy finished trying to memorize the map, they
sprinted. The map also revealed that they had just passed the
Urayoni sleeping quarters. Anybody stationed there would
certainly have been alerted by now. Along the way, they did
encounter several demons, but mostly in single file. Some were
still strolling along in their morning routine. One was shaving.
Even the ones that were prepared for a fight didn't pose a
problem for the likes of Reggie and Kathryn.
a fair amount of hacking and slashing, but they reached the
prison ward... eventually.
ones here are armored... takes longer to kill them,” Bryce
griped, poking air with his smiter.
the guys attacking us outside the bathroom were easier targets,”
they heard a very familiar scream. Kathryn recognized it
immediately and shouted. “Yuki!”
the charge to one of the cells, which seemed empty. Then again,
it was very dark. When the rest of the group caught up, Kathryn
mumbled, “Coulda sworn that-”
back collided with the bars. “What's wrong?!” Troy shouted.
spider!” Yuki cried.
back,” Reggie said, trying a shoelace around two of the bars.
One pelvic thrust later, he blew up half the wall.
and his minions entered, Bryce holding out his sword. “Now what
spider demon is here to terrorize the weak?”
wasn't a monster or anything. Just a normal household spider
that Blaine stepped on. Donovan laughed in triumph anyway.
tried to catch her breath from all the excitement as Troy and
Kathryn ran in. “W... what are you guys doing here?”
inside, Kathryn hugged Yuki. “Uriel was being an ass about it,
so we're rescuing you guys ourselves.”
Returning the embrace, Yuki almost broke into tears.
busy watching Reggie and Giles keep watch. “Nice to see you too,
but we're kind of in a hurry. Any idea where Renee and Molly
eyes widened. “Oh no! They caught Renee and Molly too?!”
their rush, Troy and Kathryn did a double take. This is what
happens when someone doesn't appear for four chapters.
slashed through the prison ward in a frantic search for either
of the two Pearson sisters, Troy and Kathryn did their best to
catch Yuki up on the situation and learn what little information
she had been given.
didn't hear anything about Molly or Renee. I woke up in that
cell and haven't seen anybody except the guy who slides supper
through the bars.”
they been treating you all right?” Kathryn asked while clubbing
a demon with her staff.
shrugged. “They haven't been treating me at all. Food's bad,
it's kinda chilly and it's boring as hell... but other than that
it wasn't so bad.”
Giles and Donovan in front and Reggie and the girls in back,
they fought off all comers as they scoured the wing in search
for Molly or Renee. The number of Urayoni arriving to defend the
fort grew. Although the troop's Pearson hunt continued
undeterred, the exhausting pace and the frequent nicks and
scrapes started to take its toll.
the hell are they? I can't do this much longer,” Carmen moaned,
blasting away the umpteenth demon in the last ten minutes.
Blaine fetched a potion for her, but it didn't help much.
midst of the battle, Giles heard a faint clanging on the other
end of a doorway. “In here!” he shouted. Troy, Kathryn and
Donovan followed without question. The others battled their way
in, shut the door and used every trick they had to reinforce it.
a hunch?” Troy asked. Turns out they were in a small hallway.
nodded. “I heard something clang against what sounded like a
bar, so there must be more cells down here. At first I thought
it was just a closet.”
know one of you has a brain,” said Molly. Troy and Kathryn ran
to her cell. Molly was leaning against the bars, holding a tin
cup. She stared at them. “I'm guessing it wasn't you two if
you're down here.”
Yuki fetched Reggie to handle the bars, Kathryn replied, “Give
us a break, we're rescuing you guys. Did you hear about what
they want to do to Renee?”
Claude told me about-”
“Claude?!” Troy shouted. “He's a demon too?!”
Don't change the subject.” Molly paused to let Reggie open the
bars. She stepped out calmly, raising an eyebrow at him. “What
are you doing here?”
shrugged. “Eh, you know how it gets over the winter on campus.
Needed something to do and a rescue mission sounded fun.”
could show a little more gratitude,” Kathryn said, bitter.
“We're saving your sister, you know.”
looked around. “Is that so? Where is Renee? You barge into the
dungeon in a demon world to rescue her, despite the fact that
Renee is probably somewhere else entirely being prepped for
whatever they plan to do to get that book out of her.”
“Please... you know you or Kurt would have done the same thing.”
away to hide a smile, Molly replied, “Of course we would. But as
your guardian, I feel the need to impart just how stupid you all
got in all right,” Troy said.
imagine getting Renee and getting out will be the hard part.
Right now you're breaking even. Any idea where she is?”
entered the the conversation as if he had been part of it the
whole time. “There was a medical ward on the other end of the
grounds. If she's not in here, that would be my guess.”
sense.” After nodding, Molly stared back at him. “Who the hell
Templeton. We should probably leave now. The rest of my unit is
waiting at the entrance.” He pinched his earlobe, nodded, then
calmly turned back to Molly. “And they just said tons of
Hageshoni soldiers are approaching the fortress right now.”
didn't answer my question,” muttered Molly. “But since you
appear to have a feel for things, you can lead us out of here.”
confidently, Giles approached the door. Reggie's girls and
Donovan's minions were barely able to keep it both shut and
intact. Demons were still trying to either open or destroy it.
“Reggie, we're going,” Giles said plainly.
time,” Reggie replied. The girls stopped pushing back and stood
aside. Carmen pulled Blaine away just before the door exploded.
When the smoke cleared, five Urayoni soldiers were standing on
the other end.
Apparently, so was one of Reggie's little toys, because one hip
thrust later they were all on the ground. The troop rushed out
of the prison and toward the spot on the map Giles remembered as
the medical ward.
didn't make it. Giles turned a corner and found a hall full of
enemies blocking the way. He turned back, not sure if it was in
them there. No way to get through,” he huffed. Don't think they
saw me though.”
well-angled energy ball created to bounce off walls ricocheted
three times and hit him in the shoulder. He fell down, clutching
Blaine fetched him a potion and Bryce threw up a shield,
everybody else backed away.
we stopping now? Let's just barrel through like we've been
doing,” Kathryn said.
they weren't all gathered in one place. We'd need to be really
good with swords, really good with breaking shields and have
plenty of potions to survive that.” A couple more shots bounced
off Bryce's shield to accentuate the point. Around the corner,
footsteps grew increasingly louder.
many potions do you have left?” Molly asked.
the last one,” Blaine replied as Giles drank it.
downed it and stood up, smashing the vial against the ground.
“Yep. New course! Retreat!”
pushed them all back down the hallway just as the demons arrived
to welcome Bryce. Bryce swiped once with his smiter, which
clanged against a demon's armor. So he ran for it, keeping his
shield up behind him.
Normally, a retreat call meant backtracking, but when they
reached an intersection Giles shouted, “Turn!” They did, though
none of them were aware or oriented enough to realize they were
blazing new territory. The row of stairs leading up clued them
in, however. Donovan barreled through it anyway and didn't stop
until the whole unit was in the courtyard.
turned around. “Hey, now we've got some room to fight these
girls caught the message and prepared to do so. Troy, Molly,
Donovan and Yuki did not. They continued to stare straight
middle of the courtyard, Sho was waiting for them.
courtyard was a large field of dirt enclosed within the
monstrous walls. The height of the enclosure made it seem
smaller than it was. With Sho on the grounds, it felt
claustrophobic to all who had encountered him before. He
approached them slowly; as he was in the center of the complex,
he was still thirty yards away.
initial urge was to retreat, but the army chasing them had
caught up. Cammy had a shield up to block the first wave of
attacks, but they were suddenly caught on both sides. Giles and
Reggie took flank positions to avoid being completely
surrounded, but everybody could see how bad things had gotten.
we've got Sho ahead of us and the Urayoni behind us and we're
out of potions,” Molly grumbled. “What am I forgetting?”
Hageshoni will be here any minute,” Giles reminded her.
Hageshoni are already here!” Troy exclaimed, preemptively
reinforcing the ground with his marginal earth spells. He wasn't
sure if it would help against Sho's nasty spike spell, but he
had to try something.
Yuki make potions?” Kathryn asked.
shook her head. “They took my bag. I'm powerless without it.”
After a pause, she added, “Can we try to get it back?”
thing at a time,” Molly barked, scanning the situation. Giles
and Reggie did an effective job keeping all the Urayoni to one
side, but that may not have been a good thing. Cammy kept a
good, broad shield up to block any attacks, but it didn't
prevent a rush. It took a constant threat from Candace, Carmen
and Blaine to keep them in check. The more demons that arrived,
the less scary the perimeter seemed to them.
other side, Sho was biding his time, which was as frightening a
sight as him actually attacking. He glared at Troy and Donovan,
practically begging them to try to get past him. Anyone with
half a brain, and in this instance that included Donovan, could
tell that Sho was there as a blockade. Unless he was provoked or
someone tried anything, his sole job was to stand there and
shout 'you shall not pass' with his eyes.
course, according to Meg, an army of Hageshoni was behind Sho on
the other side of the wall, preventing an escape. To top it all
off, they still hadn't found Renee, which was the entire point
of the trip to begin with. As far as creating a winning
strategy, Molly was drawing a blank.
suggestions?” Molly asked.
nodded. “Yep. Split up.”
looked around. The two exits were both guarded by either Sho or
dozens of Urayoni. The only directions that were remotely open
were on the sides, leading to bare walls.
for me!” Giles shouted. “Half with me; half with Reggie!”
an odd moment of synchronization, considering nobody else
understood the logic of it, but Giles and Reggie both charged,
took out the nearest Urayoni with a mighty stab and formed rank
near opposite walls. Reggie's girls followed suit, all falling
back to meet their guardian. Blaine and Bryce went the opposite
direction, the latter throwing a shield up to make it possible.
of the Urayoni, they saw the blockade part, revealing the two
prisoners, Troy, Kathryn and Donovan. Most of them were still
staring at Sho. In other words- easier targets. The Urayoni
charged down the middle at them.
noticed and shouted, “Scatter!”
turned in time and dove/flew out of the way towards the Giles
side. All but Kathryn, who fell the other way and found herself
blocking several incoming demons. Her staff was up and managed
to deflect both swords and energy blasts. All the while, she
knew Sho was standing behind her. Despite the attacks in front
of her, Kathryn cheated and turned around.
firing at her. She couldn't dodge that as well.
she felt the ground rumble from below, Kathryn felt herself
being propelled into the air. She saw the giant spike rise below
her, as well as all the Urayoni trying to re-aim their attacks.
Kathryn beat them to it, knocking a pair over with her staff.
Another two succumbed to fireballs from the side. Although
Kathryn wanted to nod to acknowledge Carmen and Candace for
saving her, she wasn't taking her eye off the enemy any longer.
as Molly hated seeing Kathryn narrowly avoid serious damage, she
had to admit Reggie's strategy worked. The Urayoni were
charging, but had to split up into two groups. Cammy and Bryce
still had full shields up on each end, and both sides were able
to defend the swordplay thanks to Reggie and Kathryn on one side
and Giles and Troy on the other. A number of demons and Sho
still blocked the exits, but it didn't look nearly as drastic.
Still, Kathryn's close call made Molly question the group's
mean you came all this way and none of you know how to make a
simple potion?” she moaned.
Maple does, but she's watching the front gate,” replied Giles.
made Molly angrier. “Why did you leave a Crafter at the front
was too busy fending off an aggressive demon to notice her
raised ire. “So nobody would follow us.”
a good idea at the time,” Blaine added.
was actually asking why someone specializing in support would
stay behind to play defense. But she let it go when two demons
double-teamed Giles. In the midst of their swordplay, one cast a
spell and scratched him in the shoulder. Giles dropped his
smiter and clutched it, falling to his knees. Both demons let
him go and made a beeline for Molly.
watching for this sort of thing, took out one easily. Molly
sneered, charged and fired at the second one, but only emitted a
useless fizzle of energy. She let out a small shriek and cowered
as the demon lunged after her with his sword. Eyes closed, she
heard a spell go off, but felt no pain.
opened her eyes, the demon was down at her feet. Footsteps
later, he was also at Donovan's feet. Donovan smirked at Molly
and said, “The student has become the master.”
swooped in and eliminated both demons, Yuki crouched over Molly.
“Are you okay, Molly? What happened?”
glared at her trigger finger. “Two days stuck under a negator,
that's what. Looks like I'm as useless as you right now.”
meanwhile, was more concerned about Giles. That shoulder scratch
was turning purple in a hurry. “Giles, what happened?”
winced, but calmly replied, “He hit me with a poisoning curse.”
More demons forced Troy to take action, but Giles simply picked
up his smiter and handed it to Molly. “Perhaps it's time to see
how Maple's doing after all.”
uneasily at the oozing shoulder wound, Molly asked, “How do we
get around Sho?”
Yuki asked. “You're going with?”
so are you. I can't do much down here and you can help this
Maple girl make more potions.”
idea.” Giles smiled. “Hop on. We're going up.”
Molly looked at the nearby wall uneasily.
hiding below the top of the wall. I'll give you a lift.”
asking any sort of permission, Giles carefully wrapped his bad
arm around Molly's waist, holding out his free arm until they
started to levitate. Molly practically had a panic attack and
almost attacked him with the smiter she still held, but a few
inches off the ground she feared falling more. She made sure her
feet were on top of his and clutched him tighter.
to say, she was a bit uneasy. “I'm... not entirely comfortable
are you blushing?” Yuki asked, triggering her own ascent with a
easy targets for them!”
and Blaine will cover us.” Giles turned to Blaine, who nodded
while keeping his eyes on the Urayoni. “And if they miss, swat
them down with the smiter.”
hold the fort here,” Troy said, trying not to snicker as Giles,
Molly and Yuki started ascending.
demons continued to test Bryce's shield and Troy's
swordsmanship, Troy muttered, “Now how the hell are we supposed
to hold the fort here?”
the wall under threat of demon projectiles was bad. Having to
hold Giles for dear life was equally uncomfortable. But the part
of all this that bothered Molly the most was relying on Donovan
and his minion to offer them cover. About a third of the way up,
she saw a fireball whirling at her head. She clutched Giles
tightly, practically suffocating him, while raising the smiter.
gust from Blaine knocked it off line. She sighed in relief, but
didn't loosen her grip until Giles said, “Thanks for being a
good sport, but I still need air flow.” Molly almost let go
above, Molly could see that the situation had gotten marginally
better. Although Troy was fending for himself inside Bryce's
shield, a number of the demons that would normally be targeting
him were targeting Giles. Donovan and Blaine were somehow taking
care of things on that end. Reggie's side was absolutely
destroying anyone who bothered to look at them, so although the
number of demons remained high, they now appeared to be finite.
out!” Yuki cried. Molly turned in time to reflexively swat down
a large rock. It hurt her arm.
that come from?” Molly shouted, wincing at her now-sore
been taking pot shots at us for a while now. We're getting too
high for Donovan to hit them all.” Yuki bobbed up and down as
she got the words out, dodging three Urayoni energy blasts in
closer they got to the top, the more Sho amplified his attacks.
They grew in both number and power, as if he had been
indifferent to shooting the three down until they were high
enough to make a good splat against the dirt. Now that they
were, he let them have it. Blaine took out some, Molly swatted
away a couple and Yuki's inconsistent flight pattern proved
helpful, but it was only a matter of time before disaster
didn't even see it: she had become so occupied with Sho that an
Urayoni got her in the arm. She lost her grip on Giles and fell,
almost yanking him down with her. He still had the back of her
shirt clutched, pulled hard when she fell and somehow managed to
resume his flight spell. Only now he was decidedly upside-down.
winced as she grabbed his wrist, which was attached to the
shoulder that was still poisoned. “You okay?” he shouted
wasn't; any energy blast that traveled that far was bound to
have some force behind it. It felt like her right arm had fallen
off completely. The smiter certainly had, crashing to the ground
below. Since Giles needed his second hand to keep his flight
spell up, all Molly could do was dangle and look below.
stared back up at her, preparing a spell. Molly turned to
Blaine, but he was nervously staring back up at her rather than
Sho. Her eyes went back to Sho as the Hageshoni went into his
windup, eyes fixated on the easy and defenseless targets.
Donovan's blast got Sho square in the chest and flattened him.
While Sho attempted to get back to his feet, Donovan approached
him, hands on his hips.
“Tonight... I am your opponent,” Donovan declared.
as it was, Sho was sufficiently distracted. Yuki swept in, took
the arms of Giles and Molly and led them up, righting their
ship. All three of them stumbled over the parapet, exhausted.
everybody okay?” Yuki asked.
nothing to worry about,” Giles replied, breathing heavily and
clutching his poisoned arm. Now that they were on the ground,
Yuki and Molly could notice how much he was sweating. Even
Molly, fighting off the pain in her own arm, was alarmed.
said it first: “That looks really, really bad. Where's your
motioned down the wall. “This way.”
tried to move quickly, but the injury to Molly and the curse on
Giles slowed them to a walk before long. Thankfully, the attacks
had stopped. Yuki peered through the embattlements often to
check. Though it took forever, they reached the corner tower
was a familiar sight inside, at least to Giles. At least this
time he knew the shaft wasn't bottomless.
“Seriously?” Molly mumbled. To her, there was nothing below.
They were too high up to see the receiving room furniture that
would have been on the ground floor.
Giles pointed to a similar platform across from them. “We just
have to fly across there.”
grumbled again, this time wrapping her good arm around Yuki.
“Um, Molly?” the Crafter asked.
don't want to aggravate his injury,” replied Molly, only thinly
disguising the real reason for avoiding another Giles hug. Yuki
didn't ask questions and cast her spell to fly over the bars.
They reached the other side safely, opening the door to give
Giles plenty of landing room. He got his spell off and labored
through it, falling to his knees once he reached the other side.
The girls weren't sure if he planned to get up any time soon.
let's go...” he said, either to them or to himself. Whomever it
was wasn't listening. Molly and Yuki helped him to his feet and
slowly walked out.
Giles unable to walk on his own, they struggled even more down
this walkway. They muscled through every laboring step, kept
their eyes on the path in front of them and did not waver. As
Yuki and Molly were helping him stay upright, Giles pinched his
earlobe to contact Meg.
just about there. Open sesame,” Giles said weakly.
in the tower on the other side?” Molly asked. She could barely
see the door on the far side.
steps later, Morgan opened up the wall again. Meg stepped out
and ran to Giles, potion in hand. “Maple got a head start,” she
said, practically feeding it to him herself. “Everybody all
was too busy catching his breath. Molly answered, “I took a shot
in the arm. Maple or Yuki can worry about that when we reach
nodded nervously and replied, “All right, but while I'm doing
that, Mindy can't watch the Hageshoni, so someone will have to
stay up here to keep an eye on them.”
and Yuki stared back, startled at the change of voice and
personality. Giles tapped Molly on the shoulder. “Um, yeah that
would be a good idea.”
pointed to the cavern outside the fortress. From their vantage
point, they could see for miles. All they focused on was the
wave of black figures on horseback riding towards the castle.
They stretched from cliff to cliff, several lines deep and
formed what looked like an unbreakable chain. Escape went
Marie, a bunch of enemy agents were invading her castle, taking
out any demon they saw. For Renee, she was strapped to a table
in a medieval operating room, waiting for an operation that
could potentially kill her. The solution to their anxiety was to
find the one topic that would keep them both engaged and
set off the sprinkers? Oh, that's clever,” Marie remarked.
nodded. “Yeah, we worked together and got a nice waterspout or
whatever you call it. Almost got that guy too.”
shook her head. “It's hard to imagine Troy being really good at
though. Way ahead of the rest of us. He can just fire off a
spell and...” Making sure to ramp up the exaggeration, Renee
mock swooned. “...so dreamy.” Both girls erupted into laughter.
they kept it to themselves, both found it odd that the two
so-called love rivals were sharing this moment. They enjoyed it,
however, as there were no longer any hidden feelings about him.
In the event that they were still competing for Troy, something
that now seemed virtually impossible, there would be far greater
factors involved than whom he liked more. They were not going to
sweat over that any longer.
they calmed down, Marie said, “Seriously though, I assumed he
was like me and just along for the ride.”
lover than fighter?” Renee asked.
snorted. “I guess you could put it like that.”
took a deep breath, one that hushed Marie and made her listen to
whatever was going to come out next. “Speaking of which, since I
don't know what's going to happen to us and it's been bugging me
forever, um... what exactly did happen with you two at Kurt's
turning red, Marie looked away. Renee wished she could have
extended her neck far enough to see it. After some thought,
Marie played with her thumbs and replied, “Well... I'm not
exactly sure what you would call it.” She turned back and
grinned. “Whatever it was, he needs to work on it.”
giggling Renee, Marie added, “You'd think Kathryn would have
given him some tips.”
Renee was blushing. “Marie! And here I thought you were the
modest one!” she howled.
raised a finger. “I'm only saying that because Kat was always
trying to give me pointers. Whether I wanted them or not.”
continued laughing. “Wow, now this is how to take our minds off
blushing, Marie nodded. “Feels like the most awkward slumber
suppose you know where they stash the ice cream around here?”
they had any here, it would be clear across the building. And it
might be too dangerous for me to...” Marie trailed off. One
errant thought and she crashed back to reality. No matter how
much they distracted themselves with thoughts of Troy and their
friends, they were still stuck here, realms away from L. B.
Marie sobered, so did Renee. “You're really that scared, aren't
you?” Renee asked.
MST catches me, I'm dead,” Marie replied. “That's it. It's a
done deal. At least with you, we don't know.”
you did something wrong.” Renee stared straight up. They had no
reasons not to be honest with each other, and this was still a
sticking point. “If you hadn't been up there, we all would have
gotten out fine.” She glanced at Marie, looking blankly at the
door. “Kamila would still be alive.”
Marie replied, “Don't blame me for Kamila-”
kinda true though. I mean-”
you're probably right, I just...” She shook her head. “I don't
want to think about it like that.” But she did, and had been for
a while. Perhaps if all this was some pre-ordained destiny,
Marie wouldn't have questioned her role in the mission. She
certainly did her best to keep a strong front around Renee and
Claude. The one thing that truly bothered her was something she
had dismissed as an allusion of her grief over Kurt. Something
that could have changed everybody's fate.
should have gotten out,” she mumbled.
turned her head sharply, which wasn't such a good idea with her
restraints. “You could have left them?”
probably not. But after Kurt died, I thought about it. I didn't
want to have anything to do with it anymore. I wanted to just be
the neutral civilian that you all thought I was.”
didn't you? ”
scoffed. “I was afraid of what they'd do to me. They'd
recalibrate me for sure, maybe even send me somewhere else.
That's if they don't just kill me.”
if you're recalibrated? Wouldn't you want to forget about
know what goes on with that? They hack away bits of your memory.
It sounds awful. And you have no say in what parts. They might
decide to take away all the memories I had with Troy and
Kathryn. And if I left the faction my parents would disown me. I
wouldn't have anything.”
paused, trying to think of some possible solution. “If you knew
about the attack, you could have told Troy or Molly. We could
have been prepared. They might have even found a way to protect
shook her head violently. “Claude would have found out and had
my head. Besides, the MST wouldn't protect me. They'd take
whatever information they could get out of me and leave me to
Renee opened her mouth to protest, Marie continued, quieter.
“You know, strange as it sounds, what ultimately made me stay
was that I didn't want to bail on my faction while Troy and
Kathryn were stuck in theirs. After what the force did to you
and Kurt, they've got to be leery of it. I knew it would be hard
to help them staying with the Urayoni... but there wasn't any
chance of it if I was recalibrated.”
had no idea what to make of that. She couldn't consider that
selfless, not after what Marie ended up doing. Yet she believed
that Marie was sincere in her fear for everyone's well-being.
She respected her courage to stick it out in a bad situation for
the sake of her loved ones. If only it weren't so short-sighted.
really hate the MST, do you?”
furrowed her eyebrows. “Of course. You're smart; you haven't
seen it yet? Your sister has.”
doesn't trust them. Why she tries to sell you guys on it is
beyond me. Magic is frightening. You've seen what it can do to
people. And here's the MST, doing their best to monopolize this
eyes widened. “Monopolize it?”
have this mindset about how magic is to be used. And if you have
a slightly different idea of it, you're branded a demon and
away, Renee said, “Maybe, but I haven't seen anything from dem...
the factions that make me think they're out for good.”
“Everything you've seen has been an effort to fight the MST.
It's just a constant battle over the right to use magic.”
can't say the Urayoni deserve it more than the MST.”
sighed. “You're right. And it's silly to think we can stop the
fighting. Best we can hope for is to get everybody we care about
away from it all.”
Renee asked, “If it were up to you, you'd just leave all this be
and not deal with it?”
sad chuckle, Marie replied, “If I actually had any power, I'd
take away what they're fighting for.” She turned to Renee and
shook her head. “I'd just get rid of magic entirely.”
Molly, Yuki and Giles were running around upstairs, Donovan was
left to deal with Sho. The demon took a vicious shot to the
chest, but that couldn't keep him down. As Donovan gloated, Sho
forced the ground itself to propel him to his feet. Once it did,
he lobbed chunks of it at Donovan. Donovan dodged a few,
shielded more, then cast flight to evade the rest, just because
he could. Good thing he did, as one of Sho's trademark spikes
followed immediately. Had Donovan been on the ground, it would
have been bad.
killed his flight when he fired an energy blast at Sho, but the
demon raised a stone shield to block it, then dismantled it into
an array of projectiles. With no time to get off a protective
spell, Donovan covered his face and took the attack head on.
safe corner of the courtyard, Kathryn watched it and winced.
After her brush with danger earlier, she was standing by with
Crystal, ready to act on any Urayoni advances, but not needing
to. Cammy's shield, Reggie's sword and Candace's fire attacks
thinned out the demon numbers considerably. Troy and the minions
were having more trouble with their workload, but Bryce's shield
was holding sufficiently. All of this meant that Donovan's usual
rescuers were occupied, leaving him alone to face Sho.
stone bullets struck Donovan, Sho approached him, rearing his
hand back for another strike. Kathryn wasn't sure what was
propelling her to help him, but by the time she realized that it
might not be the smartest thing in the world, she was already
halfway there. She drove her staff into the dirt and vaulted
forward, tackling Sho and wrestling him to the ground.
moment she realized she was still on top of him, she tried
pinning his arms with her staff. When she started pushing down,
he didn't seem to resist. Sho glared at her, angry but not
fighting back. Kathryn didn't stop pressing down on him, hoping
somebody would be able to assist her or, impossibly, that she
could somehow suffocate him. She heard nothing from her allies,
nor any distress from Sho. No matter how much pressure she put
on his neck, his face didn't change.
later, she let up just slightly, not even realizing it herself.
But Sho did, and forced his arms forward and pushed the staff
up, taking Kathryn with it. He shoved it away, sat up, and fired
a spell point blank at Kathryn. A spike-shaped chunk of rock
emerged from the ground and aimed itself at her.
have struck her had it not been for the deluge of water that
swept in and knocked it off course. Right into a shield that
Donovan had set up. Troy, responsible for the former, rushed in
and checked on the backpedaling Kathryn.
okay?” he asked. As they retreated behind Donovan's shield, Troy
tried reinforcing the ground to prevent any more spike attacks.
shook her head. “That was too close. You sure that'll work?”
I don't know any other way to do it.”
said Crystal, popping in out of nowhere. “He can't do anything
if it's not terra firma.”
you come from?” Kathryn asked.
“Followed you. The rest of the team has it covered back there.
Play decoy for a second while I set this up.”
pointed to Sho, testing Donovan's shield with several attacks.
“Keep him busy for a couple seconds. Just keep moving. Circle
deep breath, Kathryn clutched her staff, ran in and swatted down
a large rock. Rather than engage Sho directly, she danced around
him, dodging and even knocking down his attacks. Whenever he
tried a spike, she had already bounced clear of it.
in satisfaction, Crystal pulled out a mirror and dropped it on
the ground. “Got a spell to make an ice patch?”
hesitant. “Yeah, but-”
eyedropper, Crystal applied a small stream of liquid onto the
mirror. “Go for it.”
Shrugging, Troy looked at Kathryn. Sho seemed to be catching up
to her moves, nicking her with an attack. Troy turned to the
mirror, charged and fired an ice attack at it.
bounced into the air and seemed to split in every direction.
When the ice landed, it coated the ground around it until a
large swath of the courtyard had become an ice rink.
slipped and fell immediately, sliding to Sho's feet. He charged
another attack and fired one that was impossible to avoid. She
cowered, brought her staff up to block, and suffered the full
might of a hundred tiny, harmless pebbles raining down on her.
Once she realized she was alive, she swept her staff under Sho's
legs, knocking him down and enabling her to skate to safety.
time, Donovan runs interference,” she grumbled to Crystal.
step in disabling Thrusters, kids: take away their strongest
element,” said Reggie, who also had popped in out of nowhere.
you dealing with the Urayoni?” Crystal replied.
break. The girls are on it.” Crystal and Troy looked. Indeed,
Cammy, Candace, Carmen, Blaine and Bryce were on top of the
diminishing Urayoni threat. In fact, for the first time, they
could see the entrance that led them to this courtyard to begin
you switch off with Carmen?” Troy asked Reggie. When Reggie
raised a blank eyebrow, Troy clarified, “She can help Kathryn
and Donovan deal with Sho while you fight off the rest of them.”
that's not a...” Reggie saw the entrance too and grinned. “Oh. I
going on?” Kathryn approached them, keeping her eyes on Sho even
as he struggled to create a meaningful attack through the ice.
can keep the ice up,” Troy said, gripping his smiter. “So can
Blaine even. Between you and Donovan, you don't need my help
keeping Sho in check.”
what else is there to do?”
Kathryn didn't get an answer, she turned around. Troy charged
back into the compound. While everybody else took care of Sho
and the remaining defenses, Troy was going to complete the