My eyes widened as Oris made his demand. He wanted Terra to kill Nathan? Why?
“Look,” Terra said at once. “I will handle Nathan Blackwood myself. On my own time.”
The edges of Oris’s maw curled upward into a ferocious grin. “Then you best handle it quickly. If it’s left up to me, things will get a little messy. Either way, you wouldn’t be able to stay here anymore.”
“If you touch him, I’ll kill you,” Terra said, his voice flat. “I don’t need you ruining things for me here.”
Oris chuckled at that. “You’re already compromised. Your cover has been blown.” Oris made a pointed glance my direction—causing me to quickly hide behind the wall, obscuring my face from view. He snorted. “But you already know that, don’t you?”
I didn’t hear a response from Terra. I suspected that Terra may have gotten a glimpse of me when I first took a peek from behind the door entrance after I spent all that time tailing them. But was it possible that they knew I was following them all along? Oris seemed to be a werewolf. From what I knew about them from fiction and popular culture it was plausible that he had enhanced senses of some sort.
It was quiet. I slowly let my back slide down the wall until my bottom touched the cool solid rooftop. My eyes were sealed tight as I focused on calming myself. Hoping that if they couldn’t hear me breathing really hard, they would forget all about me and think that seeing me was a figment of their imagination.
“Well?” Oris asked.
Another pregnant pause.
“That girl has followed us all the way up here. Even when you had given your word, that you knew what you were doing.”
“Damn it, Oris,” Terra hissed. “Shit happens. I didn’t expect her to chase us all over the freaking school building.”
“She has nothing to do with this.”
“She’s a liability,” Oris growled.
My hands curled up into tight fists. Breath in… and out. Breath in… and out. I needed to move. I couldn’t wait here like a sitting duck. The door entrance was the only way the Terra and Oris could leave the school roof. It wouldn’t do to be naive and hope that they would let me go.
“Then if you know,” Oris began, “prove yourself. Kill her.”
My body stiffened as my blood turned to ice. Terra didn’t respond.
“Why are you hesitating?” Oris demanded.
“Oris, I thought I just told you I’ll handle it on my own time,” Terra said, his voice flat. “Mercy, come out,” he called, louder than before.”We know you’re there.”
I jumped up and ran through the door with a start, refusing to look back. I could hear Terra say something else; I think he was attempting to call me back, but I wouldn’t stop. Not when there was a risk that he would kill me.
What should I do? What should I do?
My brain was frantic, scrambling for any idea on how to get out of this situation. Should I tell someone? Go to a teacher or the principal? Or maybe I should just call the police? I had to decide quickly before Terra and his werewolf friend caught up with me.
As I reached the first floor I paused and looked around the empty hallway. “I need to find Nathan… and my sister,” I murmured. That’s right, they were originally after Nathan and there was no telling whether they would go after him or me first, especially if I managed to hide and make myself disappear. If I could find him, I could keep him out of danger. As for Tiffany, I need to warn her about Terra. Anyone else that was close to me could be a target for them now.
It didn’t take long to get to my Algebra II class after I had reached the first floor. Oris and Terra still didn’t catch up to me, causing me to wonder if they bothered to give chase at all. I wasn’t complaining. I looked around. The classroom was vacant except for pile small belongings and backpacks that littered the floor between everyone’s desks. Our lunch period had started.
Turning heel, I made my way to the cafeteria. Entering into the crowded lunchroom I was swirled by a couple of friends. Brittany, Lorie, and a few other of my other classmates pulled me over toward our usual lunch table. Tiffany perked up as she saw us approach, waving us over. I sat down—squeezing in the middle seat, between her and my friend Nicholas. I gave him a brief hello before turning to face my sister.
“What happened?” Tiffany asked. “I was looking all over for you.”
I frowned. “Have you seen Nathan or Terra?”
Tiffany paused, the edges of her lips curling downward. Hand under her chin, she looked away—seeming thoughtful. She shook her head before returning her eyes to me. “Mm-mm,” she murmured, answering my question. ” I wanted to wait for Terra after he got out of Spanish—so we could come here together, but by the time I got there someone told me he already dipped.”
Tiffany gave me an odd look. “What’s wrong? Didn’t Nathan leave class with you?”
I glanced at her side-eyed, focusing majority of my attention on the other people sitting at the table. Most of the guys weren’t paying attention to us and girls were off in their own conversations. Tonya and Nicole were busy ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ as Brittany recounted information about some classroom drama they all took part in before lunch while Lorie spent most her time fawning all over Timothy and Ashley as they looked over the group with amusement. Thank goodness, we sat near the end of the table instead of the middle.
I couldn’t stand to look straight at Timothy, still acting all chummy with our oh-so-perfect blonde leader. Still sitting next to her and smiling like he didn’t do anything to me that night. I glanced at my sister. “Something’s wrong,” I said while leaning next to my sister’s ear; my voice almost a whisper. “Terra’s after Nathan.”
“What?” Tiffany asked, a look of confusion on her face. “What do you mean?”
“I mean like he’s after-after him. A freaking hallowed, a freaking werewolf mosied his way on in here and told him to kill Nathan.”
“You’re yanking my chain here.”
“I saw it happen. I heard them talking about it. On the school roof.”
Tiffany pursed her lips, nonplussed.
“We need to do something.” I exhaled and tried to keep myself calm. “I barely got away as it is. They realized I was there. That I had followed them. Terra called out to me but I ran away. That werewolf guy… Terra called him Oris. He wanted Terra to kill me.”
Tiffany’s lips thinned, while she looked at me. Her gaze was sharp. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
I gave a quick shrug. “No. But it still happened.” I thought back to the time Terra got involved with an unknown gang a few weeks back. “Do you remember the time Terra got kidnapped?”
“You think that has something to do with this? Terra said they had got the wrong guy. That’s why he wasn’t hurt as much he could’ve been. Thank god.”
“What else could it be?”
Tiffany scrunched her lips. “He didn’t really say whether capes were involved or not.”
“You didn’t think to ask him?”
“That wasn’t my first thought when he snuck through my window half beat to death, looking for help. No.”
Before I could respond further, a food tray hit the table startling us out of our private conversation. I looked past my sister, feeling a bit surprised. Nathan was here. He took a seat beside Tiffany and then dove into the plate, taking a bite his wide pizza slice.
“What are you two whispering about?” he asked with his mouth full. He nodded toward Nicholas in greeting before returning his attention to us.
“Where have you been?” I asked.
“Worried about me?” Nathan asked in a teasing voice, taking another bite of his pizza. When I didn’t speak, he put his food down and faced us properly. “I was wondering where you went off to since you weren’t there when Mr. Nelson let us out of class. Anyway, I was looking for my wallet. Thought I lost it so I went to check my locker. When I didn’t see it in there, I almost freaked out until I realized I had it with me in my back pocket the whole time,” he smiled at us, sheepish. “And then… I went to the restroom and took a leak. Answer your question?”
My sister and I glanced at each other.
“Hey, now! I don’t appreciate that look,” Nathan said.
Tiffany snorted. But I felt like humoring him.
“What look?” I asked.
“When you both give each other the ‘he’s stupid’ look. I know it when I see it. I’m an expert at reading people.”
“Or maybe you’re just stupid,” Tiffany said, her voice flat.
Nathan sighed. “Ah, my heart.” Nathan placed his hand upon his chest. “That hurts, Tiffany. Right here.”
“You’ll be okay, you’re a big boy,” Tiffany said with a smirk. “I believe in you.”
“I thought we had a connection,” Nathan complained.
“No,” Nathan said, pretending to be woeful. “I guess Terra is the only one for you.”
“Speaking of Terra,” I said, thinking about why I was so worried for Nathan. “Have you see him?”
“Nah,” Nathan said. “He didn’t come with you guys?”
Tiffany placed a hand on top of mine. “Hey, I’ll ask Terra about it. Alright? It’s probably a misunderstanding.”
I glanced at her, my gut feeling uneasy. “It’s dangerous.”
“What’s dangerous?” Nathan asked.
Tiffany waved him off. “It’s nothing—relationship stuff.”
“Oh man, don’t tell me you guys broke up,” Nathan said.
Tiffany laughed. “Nah, nothing like that. Just need a little talk.”
“Oh shit. Now I’m more worried.”
Tiffany and I both chuckled at that one.
“You should be,” Tiffany said.
Nathan continued to talk with us until lunch period finished, however, we didn’t bring up the thing regarding Terra again. He didn’t show up but considering how a werewolf wasn’t busy rampaging through our cafeteria, I figured everything was okay for the time being. Well, until I had to go to Japanese II.
After getting my bags from Algebra II, I made my way to the third class for the day. Without really thinking, I picked the hallway that went toward my locker. It was closer and a faster way to get to class compared to some other routes but I’d often avoid it. Considering that my locker was adjacent to Katherine’s.
As I walked further in the corridor, I could see a familiar group of girls huddled around a particular locker. Katherine’s. They surrounded her talking to each other in hushed voices, pretending to mind their own business. But I knew better. They were doing their usual routine of saying mean things to her without actually saying it to her face.
It was so they couldn’t be accused of bullying. To make it hard for Katherine if she went a teacher. They could just claim they were having regular conversations and that Katherine took something they said personally by mistake. The teachers would always take the word of their favorite students over the quiet girl that sat in the corner of the class alone, scrunched over with her head down. My stomach curled.
I could hear their viperous gossip as I walked by.
“I can’t believe we have such an ugly girl in this school,” Lorie said to Nicole while sneaking glances at Katherine with a nasty smile.
“She looks like a guy,” another girl crowed.
“Isn’t that like offensive to like most of the guys in the school?” a short girl with red hair asked.
“Maybe not all of them,” Brittany said in a loud whisper. “But most of them.”
“That girl needs a lot a makeup if she wanted to look decent,” Diana murmured.
“Yeah,” Tonya agreed. “But she’d need so much she’d end up looking like a clown.”
“That would be an improvement.”
The posse of girls giggled and laughed among themselves all while giving Katherine condescending looks of disgust. Katherine didn’t say anything but it was bothering her. I could tell as she fumbled with getting books out of her locker. It was weighing her down.
“Can’t believe Ashley let a girl like Katherine hang out with us.”
“She just felt sorry for her.”
“And then for her to piss Ashely off after all that. What a dumbfuck. I thought Asian girls were supposed to be smart.”
“Hey, I resent that,” Rika said to the girl facing her left. “Katherine is too much of a failure to be lumped in with us.”
I kept my head forward, pretending not to pay attention. I didn’t want to be noticed by the girls and brought into it. I felt a hand clasp my shoulder in a soft grip. So much for that.
“Mercy, where are you off to? ” Rika asked louder than before, causing the other girls to notice I was there. “Wait for me.”
I looked at Katherine who was still facing the lockers before giving Rika a hesitant nod. Rika gave me a smile before stepping in stride with me. I turned back to give Katherine and the girls one lace glance. I flinched before turning around as Katherine’s dark eyes had met mine. She was angry, a definitive scowl on her face as she clenched her fists. The look she gave me and Rika could only be described as pure hatred. I deserved every bit of it.
“I saw that,” Rika said as we walked toward class. “That look the twerp gave you.”
I glanced up at Rika to look at her face. Being five foot eleven, she was quite tall for a girl. Since almost everyone we knew had to look up to her, she was used to looking down on people in a physical and mental way.
“What’s your deal with her anyway?” I asked, feeling irritated. “They only bother her because of you. You may have got them to believe that Ashley and Katherine had a fight but I know the truth. You the one that had a problem with Katherine, not her.”
“It’s none of your business,” Rika hissed, blowing me off. “You still want to be her friend? You don’t talk to her anymore.”
I frowned and turned away. She had me there. Glancing toward our class, I could see two figures hanging back away from the other students in the in the hallway. Toward the end. They looked familiar. I squinted at them for a minute. It was Terra and Nathan, talking.
I started to walk toward them at an even pace, but Rika didn’t follow. “Hey,” Rika called, “make sure you’re back before class starts. I’m not doing that presentation on my own.”
I waved back to her, shouting some gibberish about not worrying as Nathan and Terra had turned the corner. I wouldn’t let Terra get away from me. Not this time. I should’ve told someone instead of following them. I had no idea if Terra had powers or not. If Oris was waiting for Terra to arrive with his target. But I didn’t care. I pushed forward, following them as with as quietly as I could. Keeping my distance.
They had gone to the gym. It didn’t seem like anyone was in there. No classes were taking place. There were cameras, small ones attached to the ceiling, but even so, if they wanted to leave the school without quick interference from faculty, this was the place and time to do it. I waited for them to exit the building from the double doors before following.
Stepping outside, I paused feeling the dry air against my face. Nathan and Terra were walking down the hill, closer to the football practice fields. I pursued them. Terra and Nathan had stopped walking once they had reached the fence of one of the practice fields. They leaned on the fence facing each other while standing on the gravel track that surrounded range. I stood back a little bit, hiding behind some of the trees.
Peeking around, I watched in silence as Nathan and Terra conversed in hushed voices. What was Terra telling him?
“You’ve been a good friend,” Terra said at once, so loud that his voice echoed across the field. He didn’t need to do that, he was right next to him. Did Terra notice me again? He was probably speaking loudly for my own benefit. My body stiffened; I felt nervous.
“What are you on about?” Nathan asked, sounding suspicious. “You’ve been acting weird all day.”
Terra sighed and looked at the trees on the opposite side of the clearing. “I guess you’re right.”
“Look, man—if you got something to say, say it. I gotta go. I can’t be skipping class, bro.”
“You won’t have to worry about that any longer.”
Nathan cut himself off and ducked, avoiding a swift hook from Terra’s fist. Nathan jumped backward putting up his hands to defend himself. “What the hell, man?” Nathan’s face twisted from the expression of sudden shock to anger. “What the fuck is your problem?”
Terra gave Nathan a blank look, his face betraying nothing—like he didn’t just try to take his best friend’s head off without warning. Terra blurred, moving faster than I could see as he punched Nathan straight in the gut.
Nathan coughed and cried out in surprise as he dropped to the floor, unable to react to Terra’s quickness. Before Nathan could get up Terra kicked him and implanted his foot on Nathan’s chest to hold him in place.
“It’s nothing personal,” Terra said while pressing his foot down.
Nathan yelled something incoherent before tossing Terra’s foot off him. Nathan took off from the ground, his arms wrapping around Terra’s waist and thighs as he attempted to throw Terra to the ground. With a great heave, Nathan forced Terra to the floor. He tried to get on top of Terra, layering him with quick punches but Terra wasn’t having it. The two boys found themselves in a tight wrestling match; both trying to impose their will on each other. Terra maneuvered himself until he was back on top of their tussle with his arm wrapped around Nathan’s neck. He was trying to choke him out.
I ran toward them without thinking, aiming to stop Terra before things got worse. I grabbed Terra from behind, trying to pull him off of Nathan. Damn. Terra was a lot stronger than he looked. He didn’t budge an inch.
“Stop it, Terra!” I screamed. “Stop this now!”
Terra attempted to shrug me off but I held on. “…Stay out of this,” he growled out. His elbow connected with my chest and I fell back on the gravel. It didn’t really hurt. I was like I didn’t even feel it. Must have been the adrenaline. Nathan yelled something else over their struggle, having a few choice words for Terra after he hit me.
Terra froze. An aura of purple energy covered his body holding him in place. Still angry, Nathan readied himself to take another swing at Terra, but then he vanished in a flash of purple light.
A hooded figure wearing purple robes with golden ornaments and gems draped around its clothing appeared in midair. A woman. She floated from the sky, holding Nathan in a secure bridal carry. At a slow speed, the hooded woman landed right in front of Terra who was still frozen in place. Terra didn’t say anything, if he even could, but seeing him up close I could tell that he was afraid. I was too, as realized who the woman in front of us was. She pulled down her hood after letting Nathan stand on his two feet.
“Get out of here,” I muttered as I stared at our English teacher in shock. Her face was uncovered; she wasn’t wearing a mask. Her usual brown eyes were now swirling with waves of violet. Her pupils were slits, reminding me of Kazuya. Her ears were longer than before, elvish. Ms. Frazzle looked different but I could still tell it was her. Her hairstyle was still the same. “Ms. Frazzle…?”
Ms. Frazzle’s lips quirked upward. “Yes… and no.” With a wave of her hand, the aura that was kept Terra from moving was released. Terra exhaled in relief, but he didn’t stand. He remained in a crouched position not daring to take his eyes off our teacher.
“You’re a cape?” I asked her.
Ms. Frazzle gave a light shrug. “I guess I could be considered one. That term sounds so lazy and banal though. What about hallowed that don’t wear capes?”
Terra snorted. I was too flabbergasted to say anything.
Ms. Frazzle’s brow furrowed as she looked at Terra, disappointed. “You’ve been a naughty boy, Terra,” she said.
“… Are you sure this is a good idea?” Nathan asked quietly, prompting Ms. Frazzle to glance his way.
He knew our English teacher had powers?
“It’s fine, Nathan. With the way things were going the truth was going to come out eventually. Besides, I had to protect my precious students from getting hurt.”
“What are you even talking about?” Nathan asked, pissed off. He still seemed angry at Terra. “You didn’t need to reveal your powers to stop us from fighting.” He waved an arm toward us. “They could tell everyone. The whole school would know your secret identity by the end of the next class.”
Ms. Frazzle and Terra had a brief stare-down before she gave me a glance. She looked back at Nathan. “They could. But they won’t.”
Before we could ask her what she meant, a wave of energy burst from the trees, from the area I was hiding before. “No, they will not,” a regal voice called. A recognizable voice. A girl in golden armor with a sword in hand approached us on the gravel track. I could see Tiffany running behind her at a frantic pace, trying to keep up. It was Ashley.
Like Ms. Frazzle, Ashley also looked different. Changed. A pair of dragon-like horns covered in jewelry sprouted from the top of her head. A long reptilian tail—her reptilian tail—whipped through the air as it passed by me, she didn’t spare me a glance as she moved me out of the way. Ashley glared at the Terra, who was still crouched on the gravel track, with glowing eyes. She didn’t care about me, Nathan, or Ms. Frazzle. Her only focus was Terra.
She raised her broadsword in a fluid motion pointing it at Terra’s neck. Terra stiffened like he wanted to move, but he didn’t back away.
“What is the meaning of this?” Ashley hissed.