Regardless of how undesirable the field assignment was, having
it rendered suddenly unnecessary was jarring and unexpected. So
much that Molly quickly came to wish they had been called up.
Then it would have been over with and the unit could more or
less coast to the finish. Once they were out of the academy,
each of them could go off on their own and not have to talk to
each other anymore.
only did they have an impending field assignment, Molly had no
idea when the MST would spring it on them. Anticipation is far
more frustrating when the timetable is between a week and a
year. She didn't know what she was supposed to look ahead to
answer defaulted to high school graduation, which became an
increasingly frightening concept as it neared. When he had to
deal with it, Kurt was apprehensive as it signaled a turning
point in his life as he stared into an uncertain future. Molly's
future was pretty well decided and graduating was a formality.
This was just as problematic. She was expected to walk with her
fellow classmates (whom she didn't didn't know) and accept a
diploma (which she didn't earn) in front of a crowd of people
(whom hated her). With no access to her own security forces and
no ramifications for any potential perpetrators, she struggled
to suppress feelings of paranoia.
don't you just skip the ceremony?” Kathryn asked over lunch. The
ceremony was a week away.
chance. Mom would you kill you,” Renee replied.
nodded. “Unfortunately, I would be overruled by parents in this
circumstance. And Yuki insisted on following through with her
pledge to disband the council ops.” Using the special ops as
security had been her original plan, but became a casualty
during Yuki's re-election campaign when her opponent revealed
that they were still being funded. She didn't want to take
chances, despite winning easily.
frowned. “Would it help if we showed up to cheer you on?”
I would hear you over the booing and death threats.”
least you made an impression!” Renee joked.
you might just have to put up with that,” Kathryn said. “If
they're really out for blood, there's not a lot you can do about
it. We'll be there to make sure nobody pulls anything.”
suppose,” Molly said with a sigh. “I just never thought about
the prospect of being jeered out of the school. It's not an
late to get self-conscious, Molly. I mean you did spend three
years oppressing everybody. Natural for them to want to get it
out of their systems. You're better off taking it. Sticks and
stones and all that.”
cringed and looked aside. “Be ready for the sticks and stones
sat back, still staring at the table. “I suppose there is a hint
of regret in this as well.”
Surprised, Kathryn replied, “Really? Thinking of apologizing for
repulsed shirk, Molly answered, “Hell no. I'm not sorry about
how I ran my administration. But I do think I could have
afforded myself a little more time to breathe and have a friend
or two besides Kurt. It might have been productive to take at
least a passing interest in what Claude did when he wasn't on
weren't even friends with Claude?! Good God.” Kathryn shook her
head. “Half the kids here thought you two were dating.”
narrowed her eyes, then said, “Yes, definitely not apologizing.”
She leaned back. “But I have really enjoyed sitting here with
you two, especially with no administrative duties. I have enough
problems elsewhere to deal with all of that.”
chuckled. “Well, high school's not supposed to be a picnic, even
for us mortals. I got a term paper due next week. I should
really start that one of these days.”
for yourself,” Renee replied, preening. “Finished mine
yesterday.” She turned to Molly. “So what are you doing for your
having a graduation party?” Molly said blankly.
know Mom and Dad will pay for one. Hell, Dad and I are already
starting to plan mine!”
unenthusiastic, Molly replied, “It would useless for me to have
any input on it seeing as nobody would attend save you two and
Yuki. Everybody else would be relatives and I refuse to be
responsible for keeping them entertained.”
if you don't, Mom will take it over and it'll just be a stupid
me. I have no interest in celebrating this.”
grinned. “Yeah, we've got to do something. Give you a proper
go.” Molly stood and picked up her tray. “I doubt there is
anything you can do to actually make me feel comfortable with
this, especially your suggestion of some sort of party.”
walked away, there was a moment of disappointed silence between
Kathryn and Renee. It felt like a setback in the rehabilitation
felt like a challenge. With a sigh, Renee said, “You know what
this means, right?”
nodded. “Afraid so. Hoped it wouldn't have come to this.”
do we strike?”
lighting up with evil delight, Kathryn replied, “Night before
the ceremony. If we're going to do this, we're going all in.”
smiled and steepled her fingers.
had changed much for Troy, which meant several things. He was
still on his own, still putting on a brave face and still acting
like this was normal. He was also pretty much used to it by now,
and if there were any lessons to be gained from it, he had
forgotten them and moved on with life.
say he wasn't bored as all hell. For the first few weeks, he
just worked on more schoolwork, but that grew tiresome quickly,
especially as the school year wound down and teachers either
slowed the amount of homework or gave up completely.
end of May, Troy was almost exclusively perusing magical texts
at lunch. Much of the time, they were books on demon studies or
schools that Troy himself couldn't do. Thrusting was a fun, but
ultimately simple class and Troy was interested at some of the
neat stuff Weavers and Crafters were capable of. When the goal
was killing time instead of serious education, he was defaulting
to the flashier spells and concoctions over something he
actually would be able to use.
changed due to an unlikely source: his DVD collection. Troy was
still a typical teenager and watched far more television and
movies than typically recommended. As such, his bookshelf was at
a critical overload and needed a massive re-imagining. Since he
wasn't doing much on the weekends anymore, he had time for such
realized that the bookshelf had no room for actual books, he
started to move the big clunky magic texts from the bottom rack.
That was when he came across a smaller book on water-based
Thrusting hiding between its mammoth brethren. It was from some
of his more useful classes, the one that introduced ice magic,
but Troy recalled that Professor Weatherstone didn't completely
get through this book in the terms where it was applicable. An
old, crushed Post-It note marked the last chapter they had
reached in class. Troy flipped to it, remembered this lesson on
creating rainbows (something he found incredibly impractical)
and turned the page.
Distance Scalding... now this was more up his alley. He stuffed
it in his bag and went back to work, forgetting about it until
the following Monday at lunch when he was again in need of
quickly realized the problem with reading Thrusting books at
school: after ten minutes he was dying to try this out. It was
the same concept as ice magic, only in reverse. Troy packed up
and hiked around school looking for a suitable private place to
shoot boiling water.
search didn't take long as he noticed the dark room door
unlatched. Since the room was pretty much condemned and
unusable, even by Donovan's standards, Troy figured it was fair
game to play around and perhaps destroy further.
indeed godawful inside, as nothing had been cleaned since the
battle two months ago. That includes basic sweeping and dusting:
the cobwebs made the room creepier than Donovan ever could have,
especially as Troy needed a light spell to see anything. At
least he could try out something he had recently read in a
Weaving book, spreading the light through the entire room
instead of concentrating it in an energy ball.
air spell to clear away cobwebs and spilled candle wax, Troy
made a small range on the floor. He started by freezing an
orphaned book, encasing it in ice. Reading the instructions
carefully, he reared back and let loose, drenching the ice in
water that he hoped was hot enough.
wasn't as instantaneous as he had hoped, but after a few seconds
the ice started steaming. Slowly, and with a couple
supplementary shots, he freed the book. He picked it up; it was
a little warm and completely ruined by water damage. Good
are you doing in my chamber?!” Troy jumped when he heard
Donovan's boisterous voice behind him.
moment to calm down, Troy replied, “Jeez, I was just trying out
a couple spells. It's not like you've been doing anything in
here.” He wanted to ask if Donovan had some sort of alarm circle
set up, but figured he didn't want the answer.
nobody may trespass.” Donovan noted the book Troy was holding.
“And don't waste your time. The spells in that book are
took a closer look at the book he had been experimenting on. It
contained nursery rhymes and jump rope chants.
up his Thrusting textbook. “Working off something a little more
narrowed his eyes. “Is that so?”
lowered his head and tucked the book under his arm. “Yeah. I'll
leave now if you want.”
his hand against Troy's shoulder, Donovan stopped him. “Not so
fast. It occurs to me that we never had a proper rematch.”
combat. I will prove my superiority!”
looked up at him, totally lost. Counting the times Donovan was
possessed by a demon, they had fought twice. An impartial judge
would say they had split the results. Not counting those, they
have never fought at all. It was hard to see how a rematch was
shuffled past Donovan, quickly sidestepping around him and
opening the door.
didn't turn. “So you acknowledge your weakness...”
getting into anything. I'm just practicing, that's all.”
“Wouldn't you rather train against a live opponent?”
stopped. Framed that way, there was more to think about. He shut
the door and turned back. “Are you saying we should fight each
other for practice?”
half-grin, Donovan replied, “You'll find the enemy is more
resistant than a book.”
earned an eye roll, but it was still intriguing. Just not
foolproof. “What's the point if we can't actually hurt each
can! The young one is training too. She has been healing my
wanted to question the part about victims, but figured the odds
were good that he was referring to Blaine and Bryce.
suppose I'll give it a shot. Where did you want to try this?”
lair.” His eyebrows flared. “Hop on.”
full well that this was usually a bad idea, Troy stepped on
Donovan's foot. It wasn't like he was doing anything else over
the lunch break.
whipped through his trigger and they found themselves in the
student council bunker.
this is your new lair?” Troy said.
“Donovan, you're back!” said Yuki. Bryce was sprawled out on her
lap. “Just about done with Bryce. Can we try something with
shrapnel some time? Oh, hi Troy!”
would be no security detail, no special arrangement and no way
to avoid the ceremony any longer. With one night to go, Molly
only grew more apprehensive. When the whole autocracy thing came
together, she had never planned her escape. Not without her
administrative powers. Not as a regular nobody in the graduating
class. With no clue what was about to happen and no control over
it, all she could do was stare down another sleepless night.
worst part was that it wasn't even bedtime yet. It was only 9:30
and she was already staring blankly at the ceiling from her desk
chair, dismayed at how much this was bothering her and how
helpless she felt. She headed downstairs to make some tea and
possibly a snack. If she was going to spend the night in misery,
she figured she may as well make it as comfortable as possible.
parents barely noticed her come downstairs. Instead they
struggled with a helium tank in the living room, trying to
inflate the balloons for her party. As Renee had predicted, her
mother had arranged a simple dinner with relatives, but the
balloons were an unnecessary flourish that were apparently
mandatory for such occasions.
never made it to the kitchen, as the doorbell rang. “Could you
get that?” asked her father, swearing as his balloon slipped off
other side of the door, Kathryn and Yuki were armed with duffels
and sleeping bags. “Where should we put all this?” Yuki asked.
stared back blankly. “W... what are you doing here?”
“Basement's all set up,” said Molly's father, not looking up.
between the girls and her dad, Molly wondered if she was part of
this conversation. Kathryn didn't help matters when she stepped
in and asked, “Cool. Got anything to drink?”
downstairs,” Dad replied. Kathryn and Yuki nodded and went
Following, and growing irritated, Molly continued to ask, “Would
you care to explain why you're here? If you think you're getting
away with a surprise party...”
chuckled. “Deed's done, Molly. You look pretty surprised.”
continued when they reached the basement and saw Renee in her
pajamas hooking a DVD player to a television.
narrowed her eyes. “A sleepover? Seriously?”
Molly's right,” Kathryn said to Renee. “You don't expect us to
actually sleep, do you?”
Renee was defensive about this. “Maybe not, but I'm just trying
to look the part. This is appropriate garb for the occasion.”
dour, Molly said, “If you expect this to turn into one of those
pajama and pillow fight things, count me out.”
nodded. “I'm with Molly. She's legally an adult. Times like
this, you gotta ask yourself: what would Reggie do?”
eyed Kathryn. “That's not any better.”
gave up and teleported back to her room to change. Yuki paced
around the room, admiring Renee's set-up. “It seemed like you
were so worried about tomorrow that you weren't going to sleep
anyway. So we figured we'd keep you company.”
understandable and appreciable Molly found that, she was still
dismayed. Sitting on the horribly upholstered couch, she said,
“Have I really become that transparent?”
Kathryn replied. “We just started paying attention.”
I end up falling asleep?”
pulled a couple vials out of her satchel. “Covered!”
slumped over and grumbled, “I hate you all.”
returned wearing an oversized t-shirt and shorts that were
barely visible below said t-shirt. “I'm running with this, all
right? Gotta keep things a little casual.”
that was fast,” Yuki said. “You know a changing spell already?”
just put on the first thing that came to mind.” Renee turned to
Molly. “There's a spell to change clothes instantly?”
a spell for almost everything,” Molly said, not looking up.
“Third year Weaving, if I recall.”
eyes perked. “Care to teach us?”
forgot how to do it. It's not exactly practical. As I recall,
you have to have a set of clothes marked to summon or create the
illusion that you're wearing something else.” She looked up.
“Which is obviously problematic if somebody can resist illusion
scratched her chin. “Either way, it means there's a spell to
thought for a moment, then sighed and conceded, “I suppose that
would be the initial component of both spells, yes. No sense
creating the illusion you're wearing two things at once.”
chicks must get all the guys.” Kathryn smiled at Molly and
Renee. “Lucky for you two.”
shook her head and turned away. Renee just went with it. “Wow,
five minutes and we're already talking guys.”
that mean the party's started?” Yuki asked.
problem,” Kathryn raised a finger. “There's no guys to dish on.
Kinda already explored all our options at school.”
raised her eyebrows. “Anyone at the academy?”
really. Floodgates are open when we hit 18 though.”
dish on, not sleep with.”
ignored her. “Molly's 18,” she said thoughtfully.
both turned to Molly and grinned. Molly shirked and sneered.
“This isn't making me feel any more comfortable.”
just having fun,” Renee said. “Providing necessary distractions,
you know? Men are great for that sort of thing.”
Kathryn added, “And I recall you still have one offer
that?” Renee kneeled and inched closer to Kathryn, very much
Molly's teeth grinding, Kathryn said, “Giles did ask you out.”
turned to Molly, both shocked and elated. “Giles asked you out?!
Why was I not notified?”
assumed he was being facetious,” Molly muttered. “Solely the
product of Kathryn and... whichever one of those four brought it
didn't subside Renee's grin. “I don't know, Giles doesn't seem
the facetious type.”
should take him up on it. It's good practice either way,” said
Practice? Molly shuddered. “Are you trying to imply that I
should date Giles, whom I have either complete disinterest or
mild revulsion in, as some sort of training exercise?”
nodded. “I can see why he likes you.”
start somewhere,” Kathryn said with a shrug. “And he's not that
wouldn't go that far,” Renee said, dropping any hints of
teasing. “You shouldn't go out with someone if you don't like
him. What's the point in that?”
snickered. Renee was instantly repulsed. “What? No?”
say I've made exceptions to that rule and leave it at that.”
After another chuckle, Kathryn gestured to Yuki. “You know, for
Yuki could respond, Renee persisted, “Well, I just hope you're
not encouraging Molly to...” She thought for a moment, couldn't
think of a polite term and ended up with something worse.
“...engage in that kind of behavior.”
raised, Kathryn smirked back, not sure whether to be amused or
offended. It ended up as a combination of the two. “That kind of
behavior? What kind is that?”
fished for an answer. She glanced at Molly, who stared at the
ceiling, hands fidgeting. Fumbling, Renee said, “You know...”
suddenly straight face, Kathryn stared back. “Right, because we
should only hook up with our one true loves. How'd that work out
Renee and possibly time itself froze. Molly peeked at them, but
continued to distance herself as much as she could.
long, pained breath, Renee said, “Maybe we should watch a movie
or something. Anything you wanted to watch, Molly?”
point, I will watch absolutely anything,” Molly mumbled.
sudden tremor between herself and Kathryn, Renee shied away from
any entertainment that was particularly interactive. She stuck
mostly to movies and avoided the game cabinet. As dawn
approached, when everybody was suffering from severe eyestrain
and Yuki had exhausted her supply of liquid sleep-deprivation,
Renee sucked it up and pulled one out, mostly to try Molly's
hand at Settlers of Catan. Indeed, her sister cornered the
lumber market and won handily.
Strangely, it was that game that provided Molly a fulfilling cap
to the night. She enjoyed picking up a game for the first time
and dominating it mercilessly. Molly did not miss her
administrative responsibilities, but she did miss playing the
bitch just because she was damn good at it. She knew this was
the demeanor she needed to carry with her during the ceremony.
One that suggested that even without power, she could make
someone's life miserable.
enjoyed that far too much,” Kathryn said.
nodded. “I did. I can't say I am opposed to needless cruelty.”
remember that's what got you into this mess.”
playing the part will get me out of it.” She grinned, tossing a
stack of tokens to Renee.
looked down. “Just so you know, the student council can't do
anything to help you. Too much political pressure.”
don't have to know that. The mere possibility will keep them in
finished packing up, they heard a knock on the door. “Are you
all up yet?” Mr. Pearson asked.
went down!” Kathryn replied.
opened the door and poked his head in. He seemed dismayed that
there were no sleeping bags on the floor. “Molly, you do realize
you have a graduation ceremony and a party to go to.”
should be that exhausting,” said Molly. She may not have agreed
with that assessment the day before.
exhausting so much as long. And frequently boring. And where
dozing off is generally frowned upon.”
turned to Yuki, who nodded in understanding.
continued, “You should start getting ready. We're supposed to be
there at ten. Are your friends going with you or do we have to
take them home?”
to get home,” Yuki raised a hand. “As council president, I'm
supposed to give a speech. I still need to download one.”
Pearson nodded, then turned to Kathryn. “How about you?”
serve breakfast here?” Kathryn asked.
grinned. “I'll stick around.”
wasn't until the ceremony actually started that Molly fully
appreciated Yuki's transcript tweaking. At first, she was just
happy to have a transcript at all, but as her graduating class
marched into the gymnasium, she saw just how ideal her position
was. She did not have to lead the way, nor was she stuck in the
back among the mob of degenerates. Molly was the third to march
in and was able to walk single-file, finding a chair among the
academically elite. If there were any murmurs about her
presence, they were drowned out by all the other murmurs in the
hi, Molly,” said the girl next to her, apparently the class
runner-up. She seemed to be nervous, and seeing Molly didn't
Molly nodded, still staring straight ahead.
uh... hope there's no hard feelings. I wasn't expecting to
problem. I'm trying to lay low anyway.”
me too.” Molly finally looked, noticing two hand-written sheets
of notebook paper on the girl's lap. “Why would people care what
I have to say? I'm not even valedictorian.”
intellectually superior to everybody save one. You're earned
shuffled through her notes. “I really don't have much to say.
Half of this is talking about how I really don't have much to
Molly did was let out a brief chortle. That was enough for the
girl to turn back to Molly and say, “Well, what would you say?”
had plenty of time to assert my opinion on this school. Thus, I
have no interest in re-entering the spotlight.”
why I'm curious. I mean, it's weird, you've been invisible all
semester. Would you stick up for yourself? Would you apologize?
I mean, you probably have some idea of the things people say
about you. What do you say back?”
sighed. She did not know this girl. She recognized her face from
the hallways, but as she had never run afoul of the
administration, Molly had no interest in her. Which was a little
troubling, as the class salutatorian seemed to be a very decent
individual, one of the many decent, studious kids that probably
existed at L. B. Gould but never stood out much.
question was troubling as well, as despite Molly saying that she
had no interest in the spotlight, she had thought about it for
the last several weeks. So she knew exactly what she would say
to the student body had she another chance... and wire fencing
in front of her to block any thrown objects.
letting people jerk you around,” she said. “Life isn't much fun
when someone else is in charge of it.”
pondered that for a moment silently. Molly cheated and looked at
she looked back and nodded. “Guess that's one way to put it.
Last thing I would have expected but... yeah.”
“Something tells me that wouldn't go over well if I actually
shook her head. “...not at all.” Then she crumpled up her sheets
of paper. “But you're not the one going up there.”
quickly tried to intervene. “Don't get any-”
“Welcome, graduates of L. B. Gould High School!” Yuki's
not-so-boisterous voice silenced Molly, and the rest of the
murmurs, as the ceremony officially began.
few words from the superintendent, still thoroughly emasculated
from Molly's time in office, the school band and choir performed
pieces. They drowned out Molly's efforts to stop the girl from
changing her speech. To Molly, 'not having much to say' was far
preferable than any words of wisdom that could find their way
back to her.
were no such nuggets in the speech Yuki downloaded or the
subsequent valedictorian's speech which may as well have been.
But Molly cringed when Yuki called the salutatorian to come up.
stood, approached the podium, took a long look at the crowd and
a deep breath. Then she tossed her prepared remarks into the
know, when they told me I was supposed to give a speech because
my grades were second-best in the class, I looked at them like
they were crazy. I mean, what was I supposed to say? 'We
survived, good work, keep it up?' The whole thing seemed pretty
stupid to me. I had some things written out, but it wasn't all
that useful. You wouldn't remember any of it.”
scanned the room. For all she knew, half the people in the room
were dozing off already. “But I was told to say something, so I
was just going to run with it and get it over with so we can get
our diplomas and go home.” A few of the awake seniors nodded,
but still wanted her to get to the point.
salutatorian made it: “But as fate would have it, I ended up
seated next to Molly Pearson.”
head in the room perked up at the name, except for Molly's. Hers
moment Molly's name was mentioned, every ass clenched in its
seat. Molly kept her head down, thankful the cap on her head was
obstructing her face from the back. She didn't dare turn around.
On stage, Yuki and the superintendent were clearly apprehensive,
but the salutatorian continued.
told us not to bring all that business up, and I won't. I think
we're a lot better off now.” She stole a glance at Yuki, who
smiled back nervously. “But I was chatting with Molly before,
and she was actually kinda nice.”
shook her head in dismay. Even something as benign as 'kinda
nice' would be taken as a shocking revelation by half the crowd
and a white lie by the other half.
asked her what she would say if she was in my shoes. Because I
didn't have anything. And she said something that I really
wasn't expecting, but the more I think about it, it's really the
most important thing we can take away from all this.”
point, Molly was just hoping the girl would paraphrase, but was
only sort of relieved when she did. “In high school, we're
pretty much used to getting bossed around. And not just Molly,
by teachers, coaches, our parents... there's not a whole lot of
room to live our own lives. We get really used to being
controlled by other people. Molly said that if she had one thing
to pass on, it would be that we really need to quit that.
adults now, but that doesn't mean other people aren't going to
try to run our lives. And how happy we are in life is probably
going to depend on how much we let them. If we don't try to go
after what we want to go after and do the things that give us
the most satisfaction, then, well... life's gonna suck. Say what
you want about Molly, but she certainly did things her way.”
this point, Molly had been moderately comfortable with the
speech, but that really hit her. The whole 'don't let people
jerk you around' bit was directed towards herself as much as the
rest of the class. She saw herself as another example, not the
poster child for independence. Molly had to admit it was a
different way of looking at things.
think about that as you begin your life. The things people
expect of you only matter as much as you let them. You don't
have to be tied down by what's normal or what someone else wants
you to become. If you have an angle on a better way to reach
your dreams, do it your own way. You may not succeed, but at
least you won't regret a missed opportunity.”
paused, long enough for a couple people to start a premature
applause. But it was clear to most that she was only thinking,
and she confirmed it when she said, “That's why... and I just
came to this decision now, so my parents are going to pretty
shocked... but that's why I'm not going to college next
mouth fell open. Now this was getting crazy. She gives one
person a piece of half-wisdom and it leads to a potentially
life-altering decision over the span of twenty minutes. She
hoped the girl's parents weren't the hostile type.
I'm going to be in school for a long time. I've got plenty of
time for that. So before I go back to drowning in books, I just
want to work my butt off over the summer, take some time off and
spend a couple weeks in Europe. You know, actually living for a
change.” Molly sighed. It wasn't quitting law school to join the
circus, but it was still a pretty drastic move.
funny, this is something I had thought of doing for a long time
now, and really wanted. But it just seemed weird not to go to
school in the fall, so I never brought it up. If I hadn't talked
to Molly I probably wouldn't have done it. So, regardless of
what happened before...” She turned to Molly, who couldn't help
but look back, no matter how unhappy she was about being singled
out. “Thank you, Molly. Seriously.”
the weirdest feeling of all. The last thing Molly expected was
to be thanked for something. She wasn't even sure what she had
done. But the audience seemed interested and didn't react
angrily to the statement, so she let it go and let the girl
finish. “So after all that, Molly's last words were that life
isn't much fun when someone else is running it. So that's what
we need to take out of all this. Let's start having fun.”
stepped down, the applause seemed stronger than either of the
earlier speeches. It wasn't deafening, but people at least
listened to it without rioting. It was something. The girl sat
down and sighed. “How'd I do?” she asked Molly.
than I would have done,” Molly replied, facing straight ahead.
“Were you serious about not going to college?”
don't do it now, it won't happen for a while. Just had to
speeches out of the way, the procession followed. This was the
part Molly dreaded the most. She could blend into the background
for the rest of the ceremony, but not so much when her name was
being read aloud and she had to cross the stage alone to pick up
didn't even have that girl to kill time with, as the order was
alphabetical. Now she was stuck in line behind a boy named
Parker that had earned himself a threatening Letter or two over
turning back, he smirked. “I'm surprised you even showed up,
Pearson. You know you can't do anything to us once I've got that
part she was prepared for. Molly glared a hole into his neck. He
didn't even need to turn around to feel it. “You'd think that,
don't actually hand out the diplomas. It's just a dummy for the
show. The paper with your name on it comes later.” With the
slightest hint of a grin, she added, “In theory.”
turned around slightly, just enough to see her glower. “But
wait, you don't have any power. You can't-”
assume too much, Mr. Parker.” She leaned slightly, enough to get
a glimpse of Yuki, standing and watching the conveyor belt of
students. Yuki saw Molly... and the bright smile on her face.
Yuki smiled and waved back.
saw all of this and faced forward again. He was also crying when
he crossed the stage and picked up his psuedo-diploma.
Molly's name was announced. There was the usual din of polite
applause, but far less than usual and only enough to prevent
cricket-chirping silence. While some of the more popular
students got big cheers when they passed through, there was no
pop when she crossed the stage. She faced forward and marched
quickly, hoping that was the worst of it.
sighed when she took her certificate holder and continued along
the trail. She could live with this. It was jarring when she
heard two loud cheers from the audience. The silence from
everybody else made this freak raving particularly noticeable.
Molly couldn't help but look.
enough, Renee and Kathryn were cheering like nutcases. Even
Molly's parents looked a little embarrassed by the display.
Everyone stared at them as if they were the only ones in on some
sort of joke. Much as they sounded like rowdy sports fans at an
otherwise serious ceremony, Molly knew they were sincere.
Overcompensating perhaps, but Molly knew exactly what they were
going for. No matter how unpopular she was leaving the school,
at least she had a couple friends to help pick up the slack.
chuckled to herself and while she couldn't say she wasn't
worried about the rest of the event, she no longer cared.
had escalated to the point where the battle had to be taken
outside. The good old empty field served them well as it was
mostly open, with a few strategic hiding places. Troy was using
his cover carefully, as he knew Donovan had all sorts of tricks
to clear the grass and expose him.
quickly, as a gust of energy that floored Troy in the chest. It
didn't hurt, but it did blow the grass away and left him without
a roost. He ran immediately, narrowly avoiding the first energy
blast that came in. Subsequent attacks followed, and Troy
managed to barely stay ahead of them, keeping one eye on his
path forward and one eye on Donovan firing at him from the
center of the field.
started charging a spell as he continued to dodge bullets. He
ran in an arc surrounding Donovan, hoping to try out a new
trick. Donovan complied, standing in one place firing madly.
When Troy had run a semi-circle, he fired, creating a tidal wave
along his entire path. The huge wall of water headed straight at
Donovan. Lest he get hit himself, Troy had to get out of the way
and couldn't get a clear view as it collided.
first, Troy wasn't sure if it did anything. Then he frowned as
he heard a deep laugh from his right. Before Donovan could
attack, Troy quickly turned and fired an ice bolt in that
direction. Nobody was there.
felt an energy ball strike him hard in the back, flooring him.
Painful as it was, Troy merely winced and raised a hand.
that was a good one!” Yuki said, rushing in and delivering an
already-prepared potion to Troy.
snickered and said, “The day is mine.”
yeah...” Troy picked himself up with Yuki's help, brushing the
grass off his shirt. “What was that? Did you throw your voice or
can't even trust your ears.”
know you wouldn't need to do that if you didn't give yourself
away whenever you teleport.”
setup for this triumphant victory!” Donovan boasted. “The
winning streak continues!”
two,” muttered Troy. “And that's only because you teleport all
usually disable that in real fights,” said Yuki. “Maybe we
should get Bryce to put up a counter spell next time.”
threw his hands to his hips. “And impede my chances? Never!”
shook his head. “Anyway, same time next Monday?” Despite school
being out, he was in no mood to cease what had been very
engaging and productive sparring matches.
Troy,” Yuki said. “Now that school's out, I'm heading back home
for a couple weeks. We'll have to wait until I get back.”
“Nonsense! We can still-”
interrupted Donovan, “Not without a healer. Those shots sting
enough with one.” He turned to Yuki. “As long as we get one more
in before we head back to Central.”
Yuki replied. “I gotta get going. Haven't started packing yet.”
didn't waste any time hanging around Donovan, heading home
himself as soon as Yuki ran off. He walked instead of
teleporting, typical as Donovan tended to sour the whole concept
of teleporting during their bouts.
weeks they had been sparring, Troy still won more often than he
lost. But losing twice in a row was alarming. Donovan was
closing the gap, and Troy couldn't figure out why. When they had
first started, Troy dominated, losing only when he would get
suckered into one of Donovan's traps. Even then, Donovan fell
into his own just as often. Ability-wise, he wasn't a threat.
Donovan seemed to be getting craftier, using Weaver parlor
tricks to make up for his lack of variety in his attacks. As a
Thruster, Troy was stronger offensively, but couldn't get as
cute with his complimentary spells. It was the only weakness he
could perceive but it bothered him, especially on days like this
where he lost because of it.
all boiled down to was that Troy needed to keep working at it,
especially the little things that didn't look at all flashy, but
could help out in random situations. As soon as he got home, he
ran to his room to see if there was anything he could put to
he tried to. His mother was heading downstairs and intercepted
him. “So what were you up to today?” she asked, trying to motion
Troy back to the bottom of the steps so she could get through
with a laundry basket.
“Sparring with Donovan and Yuki,” he replied, finally obliging.
“Can't quit practicing just because school's out.” As soon as
Ellen cleared a path, he flew upstairs.
“Actually, Troy...” She tried to stop him, but he was already
didn't give up. After depositing her basket in the laundry room,
she followed him up and knocked on his door. He allowed her in,
but was too busy with a textbook to open the door. “What's up?”
he asked, not looking up.
you planning on doing this all summer?”
know. Maybe I'll take a break after I get back from Central.
you've been spending a lot of time reading in here. You don't
seem to be going out much with Kathryn anymore.”
uh, not really hanging out right now.” Troy shifted his eyes.
I would think that after what happened to Kurt and Marie, you
two would be sticking together even more.”
looked straight back at her. “Yeah. So did I.”
just odd that you're only hanging out with Donovan. I'm not too
sure about that kid.”
wacko,” Troy said. “But he puts up a good fight.”
all you're looking for in friends these days?”
didn't answer, instead returning to his textbook.
took a different route. “Well, if you've got free time this
summer, I saw a few places that were hiring. I'm sure somebody
would be okay with you leaving for a bit in July.”
definitely didn't respond to that, so she persisted. “It's just
that I don't want you to spend all summer in here. And you know
I'm not making Golden Sun money anymore. It wouldn't hurt for
you to save up a bit more.”
really have anything to spend it on,” Troy replied. “As you
said, I'm not going out much.”
this is important to me.” He turned to her again. “This is an
opportunity. I feel like I can really do something if I throw
myself in it.” He was about to say something about his dad, but
wasn't sure how well that would play.
his answer when Ellen sighed and said, “Yeah.” Walking away, she
mumbled, “I've heard that one before.”