In Plain Sight
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t lop off your head,” Ashley said, commanding Terra, her voice harsh as she attempted to prick his neck.
I wanted to yell at her, to make her stop—but my voice was stuck; it was caught in my throat.
“Wait—hold on!” Ms. Frazzle said at once, grabbing Ashley by the arm to stop the movement of her blade. “Let’s not be hasty. It’s not good to threaten your friends like this.”
Ashley studied Ms. Frazzle with the corner of her eye, her golden glare vicious, no less threatening than when she faced Terra. “You… dare?”
Ms. Frazzle, gaze remained impassive as she refused to let go. “Calm down.”
Ashley’s face morphed from an expression of irritation with a tight-lipped frown to a look of turbulent animosity. Golden energy started to swarm around her body. “Who are you to order me around, weakling?”
Ms. Frazzle let go of Ashley’s arm, taking a step back. Her lips tightened as she looked at Ashley shielded by her golden aura of energy. I could have sworn that Ms. Frazzle was shaking out of fear.
“I’ve had it up to here with you, serpent-elf,” Ashley said in annoyance, spitting out the words as she spoke. “I was merciful until now since your aid may have been useful. But if you’ve decided to stand in my way, I’ll destroy you. You had your warning. Know your place.”
Both Ashley and Ms. Frazzle stared at each other as Ashley’s aura continued to charge with that strong energy. They were sizing each other up, but they didn’t attack one another.
“I don’t think it would be wise to start a fight here,” Ms. Frazzle said, after a moment.
Ashley’s eyes widened like Ms. Frazzle had slapped her. “Oh—that confident, are we?” Ashley stuck her golden sword into the ground and rested her hands on the pommel, her violent golden-brown tail waving through the air. The ground around her started to contort as long columns of silver blades extruded from it like spikes—the slow-moving swords almost enclosing her in a barrier of metal. “Such a blatant show of disrespect cannot go unpunished. I have decided. I will kill you now.”
“Goddess, please,” Ms. Frazzle pleaded, raising her hands in protest. “I’m not challenging you. I’m only offering advice.”
Ashley paused. “Advice? As if I need such a thing.”
“If we fight seriously, yes, there is a high possibility you would kill me—”
“I would,” Ashley said, cutting Ms. Frazzle off. “Let us leave no doubt.”
“Okay. You would. But unleashing your power here would cause you unwanted attention.”
“You’re speaking of those useless humans from SIGMA, or perhaps our mongrel offspring from what they call the Alliance?”
“Them and more. The heroes of this city—of this world. The Forum, the Arcadians, the Valterian rulership, and not to mention your very own father.”
Ashley frowned as the ensemble of metal blades surrounding her sank into the ground at a slow pace. “So you even know of the Forum? You’re more resourceful than I thought. But then again I’ve heard that they’ve become a bit sloppy during the last millennium. Comes with being so close to their goal. Even so, none of those groups worry me that much. I don’t consider them threats.”
“Maybe not, but word of your appearance here would reach back to Avalon. To the Eternalists. To the Duskanian Empire. BRIM and the other nations. How do you think they will react knowing the ruler’s seat of the largest country in Foresta is currently unoccupied? ”
“So not only do you try to threaten me but my country as well?”
“What would I have to gain from that?” Ms. Frazzle asked in a strangled voice, as she closed her eyes in exasperation. “Aryva Vasta is located smack dab in the middle of your territory, still there as you’ve have graciously allowed it to be when you first came to power. Anything that effects Artisans would affect my homeland as well.”
Ashley’s lips curled in a delightful smirk. “My homeland, she says. Is that really the case anymore?”
Ms. Frazzle frowned. “Perhaps we should focus on the matter at hand.” She motioned a hand toward Terra.
Ashley’s cruel smile dimmed, her lips tightening. She rolled her eyes before breaking eye contact with Ms. Frazzle, seeming reluctant. I couldn’t tell if she was more annoyed at being ordered around or being unable to view the sore expression on Ms. Frazzle’s face, something caused by her digging.
“Well then, Terra Eatos,” Ashley said in a booming voice, after turning to face him, giving him sweet smile that looked so fake it made me sick. Even with Ms. Frazzle here to watch Ashley, each step she took toward Terra filled me with dread. Ashley stopped a few feet in front of him, towering over him as he was still crouched. Her golden blade was dangerously close to him. “Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
The edges of Terra’s mouth lifted into a slight smirk and he gave a small huff before standing up. Now taller than Ashley, he looked her straight in the eye. “It’s not every day that you get to see the hundreth princess of Dragonbornnia in her full glory.”
“You know about that?” Nathan asked, shocked, startling me. He was giving Terra an accusing look of betrayal.
I shook my head. It felt as if my normal life was coming apart at the seams. No. It already had while ago. Mom and Dad. Ms. Frazzle and Ashley. Terra. Did everyone we know secretly have powers or some rich backstory? At this point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Nathan was a cape as well.
“… a princess?” I asked, in a low voice, glancing at Terra and Ashley.
Terra’s smile widened as stepped beside Ashley to face me. “Ashley here is the real deal. A Valterian of pure royalty.”
She’s a Valterian? So that’s why Ms. Frazzle called her a goddess…
“Of course, she is,” Tiffany said as she folded her arms. “Why am I not surprised?”
“Right?” Terra asked in agreement, I heard a hint of teasing in his voice. He slowly walked around Ashley in a circle, his careful gaze scrutinizing her. Ashley’s sharp eyes followed him wherever he moved. Terra paused once he was in front of her again. “She’s one of the Dragonborne, the remnants of the Dragon Clan. The most powerful Valterian clan to ever walk the heavens, part of the royal family that rules all of Valteria. And that’s not all—our goddess here has a nation of her own, all to herself. On a pretty little planet, we like to call Avalon.”
“That’s enough!” Ashley asserted as she sheathed her broadsword in a brown sheath covered with golden trim, drawing our attention. “Having such a pitiful introduction would be in poor taste.” She gave Terra an irritated glare. “I’d rather kill myself than have you explain my history in such a manner.” Tiffany had found her way over to my side; Ashley faced my sister and me.
“That would solve things quicker,” Terra muttered, offhand.
“What was that?”
“Nothing. Just a little joke.”
I glanced at Tiffany with my peripheral vision since the majority of my focus was on Ashley. I slid my hand down next to my thighs; I wafted it through the air until I came in to contact with Tiffany’s hand. I gave her hand a slight squeeze for comfort.
“Since everyone else here is aware,” Ashley started, “It’s only right for you then, to know who I am. My true name is Audrey Genia Citrine Arcaria Dragonborne.”
That was a long name.
“I am the glorious Ruler of Artisans that will one day regain my birthright, and take the throne of Valteria. As of now, like those two,” she motioned toward Nathan and Ms. Frazzle, “You three,” she pointed at me, Terra, and Tiffany, “belong to me.”
There was a slight pause as Ashley—no—Audrey Genia made her declaration.
“Belong to you…?” Tiffany asked, hesitant. “Don’t we already? I mean you practically act like you own us in school. Ever since you’ve forced us to join that group of yours.”
Audrey Genia shook her head. “No. You’re more than that now. Your status is akin to that of my most loyal subjects.”
Tiffany gave a dry laugh. “Like that’s any better?”
“It is,” Audrey Genia confirmed. “You’d be surprised at what I do for those that are mine.”
“Oh really, like you what you do for Mercy when you still allow that douchebag to hang around us?”
I gave my sister an incredulous look. “You’re bringing that up now?”
“Why shouldn’t I? Didn’t our grand leader here promise she would handle it?”
“I have and I will. I always keep my promises. But there is no need to remove him from us completely at this time.”
Tiffany looked furious. “No need—”
“Do not raise your voice against me,” Audrey Genia warned with a snarl, her eyes fierce.
“Hey, let’s relax,” Ms. Frazzle said with her hands out in a placating manner, worried. “Who are you guys talking about?”
“Timothy,” Terra answered.
“Terra,” I warned, hoping he wouldn’t explain his answer further. Everyone was making such a big deal out of it.
“…What happened?” Nathan asked, his voice quiet and detached.
Terra glanced at him in silence. From what I could tell, Nathan didn’t seem too angry at Terra anymore. His gaze was sharp, focused. I found it peculiar because it seemed like now Nathan was more focused on me. Terra looked back at me. I was quiet, pleading for him not to say anything, fully aware of Tiffany tensing up beside me—my hand still encasing her’s.
“A house party at Tim’s place. You know how Mercy’s no longer going out with him? They got into an argument. Got a little ugly. We had to break it up.”
Tiffany didn’t say anything to refute her boyfriend but her hand squeezed mine harder.
It didn’t seem like Nathan or Ms. Frazzle bought that explanation, but they didn’t ask for anything else. But the way Nathan was looking at me, I could tell he would demand more information later.
Ms. Frazzle sighed. “Okay, now back to the first issue.”
“Oh, come off it, serpent-elf,” Audrey Genia scoffed.
“It’s not nice to be rude, Ashley.”
“Has your mind finally broken? Why are you calling me by that alias now? Everyone here knows who I am.”
“I’m in the process of reminding you that if we are to continue to play the roles we have chosen so that we could remain in this world, you must remember that here, officially, I’m your teacher. And as a student, you should show some respect, not just to me but to your classmates and friends as well.”
Audrey Genia harrumphed. “It seems coming into contact with Nathan has helped you gain a backbone,” she said, the heat draining from her voice. “However, I did not come to this planet to be lectured a fallen queen, serpent-elf.”
“Fallen queen…?” I asked. Was Ms. Frazzle royalty too?
“Are you Valterian?” Tiffany asked her.
Ms. Frazzle faced us. “Like Audrey Genia, I am not originally from Earth but I am not Valterian nor part of any race of gods. I’m an Avalonian. From the planet Terra so kindly mentioned for us before.”
“Avalon,” I said.
“Yes,” Ms. Frazzle confirmed. “My real name is Myadin Sagittaria, my home is the land of Aryva Vasta.”
“Your home was,” Audrey Genia said, almost looking like she wanted to gloat. “Such a shame that Naga banished you.”
“Yes,” Myadin said through gritted teeth.
“…I was wondering where I remembered you from,” Terra said.
Myadin gave him a curious look. “Have we met before?”
“No. But I’ve heard of you. Seen your work.” Terra’s sly smile caused Myadin to fidget with the sleeves of her robes.
“What… did you… hear about me?”
“Heard lots of things. Had to confirm stuff about you on some missions. They say you can’t be trusted. That you’re the Witch of Lies, the blasphemous serpent.”
Audrey Genia smiled while nodding in agreement. “The Queen of Madness.”
Man, had we stumbled into some serious and heavy stuff. I had so many questions and I didn’t know where to start.
“Avalon,” I said, my gaze alternating between Terra and the two other capes, “That’s where you guys are from right? Why did you all come here? I mean—it’s not that I don’t like you guys or anything—but… I’m just…”
Baffled that we’ve been surrounded by people with powers.
Terra chuckled. “It’s okay Mercy, I’m sure we all get what you mean.”
Tiffany gave Audrey Genia a careful look. “Isn’t she Valterian though? She has to be from the same place Nexus and PTE are from.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, “and Kazuya.”
“Where did you hear that name?” Audrey Genia asked, her voice sharp.
Tiffany and I glanced at each other. “We’ve met him before?”
“You met Kazuya?”
“Uh, we got dragged into the middle of a cape fight Friday after the party,” I explained. “He appeared in front of us after while being chased by Arcadians.”
“Arcadians?” Audrey Genia clamped her eyes shut and swallowed her lips like she was trying to keep herself from losing it. She groaned. It was such a weird response to me, as I always used to her being so prim and proper. “That man…”
“You know him?” Tiffany asked. “He stayed with us for a day or two.”
“What don’t I know about him is the question,” Audrey Genia said. Her eyes became unfocused as she glanced away from us. “He was my teacher. A mentor to me and my sister. A devious one, truly,” Audrey Genia shook her head and then looked at Terra. “Regardless, we can discuss that loose fox at a later date. Terra, it was my mistake letting you run free as an assassin.”
“He’s an assassin?” Nathan asked in disbelief.
“I’ve should have known better, really,” Audrey Genia mused. “After your battle with that BRIM agent—Anton Ryan.”
Mr. Ryan? She was talking about our assistant principal. Did something happen between him and Terra? I gave Tiffany a questioning look but she was just as surprised as I was. Myadin also seemed shocked by Audrey Genia’s words.
“Terra,” I said, drawing his attention. “That gang member we ran into after school that one time, didn’t he say he was an assassin? Wasn’t he with the group of people that kidnapped you?”
Audrey Genia huffed. “That kidnapping was a ruse or an initiation ritual of some sort. He’s in league with them now. Isn’t that right, Eatos? You’re a full-fledged member of the Sinister Seven.”
“That can’t be,” Myadin muttered.
“But it is,” Audrey Genia said, her gaze still lingering over Terra. “I’ve should have known something was off after we had fought those bastards together that night. I didn’t use my abilities and yet they still knew who I was.”
Terra snorted in amusement. “It’s not like you’re hiding your face. Anyone from Avalon would know who you are.”
“So that’s what it was about,” I muttered, glancing at Terra. “I was wondering you said you had to lay low for a couple of days.”
“The both of you fought against the Sinister Seven?” Myadin asked.
“I thought they were targeting me with how they were acting, having members follow me everywhere,” Audrey Genia said. “Now I know they were only preparing a test for Terra.”
“You’re almost right, Audrey,” Terra said. “But I’ve been with the Seven for a very long time. Way longer than you think. That thing we set up? It was cover to follow you around. To get closer to you. We needed someone to keep a better eye on you.”
“Unbelievable,” Myadin said.
Terra gave her a slight smile. “Sorry, teach.”
Myadin frowned at him. “That still doesn’t explain why you—why the Sinister Seven is targeting Nathan.”
“What exactly is the Sinister Seven anyway?” Nathan asked while glaring at Terra, with folded arms. “I haven’t heard of that name before. Is it a new gang that picks random people to kill?”
“Nah, man. We don’t kill indiscriminately. We’re an organization of assassins and mercenaries that originate from Avalon. We’re pretty well known there as a group but not a lot of people actually know our true identities. I mean usually, if you did know, you were a target and when you’re our target, you don’t live long.”
“Does that mean I should be worried?”
Terra shook his head.
“The Sinister Seven should have disbanded years ago,” Myadin said. “After the Bloodstained Festival.”
“Officially, yeah,” Terra said. “We still take jobs, private assignments that pay big. But we disappeared from public view for a few years. Constantly moved around. I came to Earth first. When I was five.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Terra an assassin at five years old?
“Everyone else trickled in here slowly from various other planets but we’re all back together now. ”
Myadin’s brow furrowed and the creases of her forehead increased in number as her mind seemed to juggle the implications of Terra’s words.
“And Nathan was one of your assignments.” Audrey Genia’s words sounded more like a statement than a question.
“Why? Who gave you this job?”
At Terra’s answer, Myadin frowned and bit her lip. Audrey Genia didn’t seem surprised, but her face hardened; she looked more serious.
“How in creation would that dragon know about Nathan?” Audrey Genia asked in a whisper loud enough for us to hear.
“Dusk?” Nathan asked. “Who is he?”
“He’s the king-emperor of Duskan and the Duskanian Empire,” Terra explained, as he moved to the fence close to the field so that he could lean on it. “The strongest Legendary God Monster on Avalon. Well, his strength is considered to be tied with the leader of Guardian, who lives in the free world.” Terra waved a hand through the air in a frivolous gesture. “But you know—semantics.”
A dragon king. I thought back to my visions. Could it be possible that I knew the person Terra was talking about? I felt a soft hand squeezing mine, gently. Tiffany had grabbed my hand this time. I glanced at my sister who was looking at me, worried. I gave her a cautious smile.
“God monsters,” Nathan looked at Terra with an expression that could only be described as a mix of confusion and irritation. “The fuck…”
“Why would the Dragon King want Nathan dead?” Myadin asked, her voice piercing through the air—causing Nathan to flinch.
“I would like to know that reason as well,” Audrey Genia said.
Terra faced Audrey Genia. “It’s simple. Because of Nathan’s potential. I don’t know the full picture, but apparently, Nathan has to power to fix you up.”
“Weren’t your majority powers sealed away by Decimatus?”
Myadin’s eyes widened.
Audrey Genia scowled. “You even know of that.”
“Yeah. Nathan has the power to undo that. He can unseal your powers but I don’t know the specifics. Dusk doesn’t want you to regain your power because then it would be easier to remove you from the picture and conquer Avalon. Lord knows he has enough on his plate already, with all the important players on the planet making moves.”
“So that’s why Decimatus told you to watch and protect him,” Myadin said to Audrey Genia.
Audrey Genia growled in annoyance. “I didn’t want many people knowing of this. It causes too many problems. I can never understand what father is thinking.”
“Wait, your dad sealed your powers?” Tiffany asked. “You still looked like you had them to me.”
Audrey Genia smiled at her. “That was nothing. Just wait until I regain all of my abilities.”
Nathan didn’t seem convinced about their comments. “This doesn’t make any sense. I don’t have any powers. I’m not a cape.”
Myadin caressed Nathan’s shoulder in a soft but firm grip. “You don’t know, but Decimatus had been the ruler of Valteria since it was created. Before he stepped down a year ago. If he thinks you’re important, Nathan, it’s a pretty big deal. Honestly, I’m surprised he even knows of you.”
“Yes,” Audrey Genia agreed. “My father’s wisdom is unparalleled. He never does or says anything without reason.”
“Mmm,” Myadin hummed while looking Nathan over. “If Nathan has the potential to become hallowed, perhaps we can find a way to pull that power out of him.”
Audrey Genia gave Nathan a searching look. “Probably going to need something more intense than a fist fight.” She faced Terra. “Were you serious about assassinating Nathan? From what I could tell you approached him directly. You didn’t use your powers now like when you killed Anton.”
I tensed, viewing Terra in a new light. That wasn’t possible. Terra wouldn’t—he couldn’t have killed our assistant principal. Mr. Ryan was just here a day ago. I knew Terra just admitted that he was an assassin, but seriously?
“Man, come on,” Terra said. “I couldn’t kill my best friend, even if it was a mission. I was really waiting for you to come here and stop me.”
“I thought as much.”
“Myadin beat you to the punch though. I didn’t expect her at all.”
“Haven’t I told you to always expect the unexpected?” Myadin said favoring Terra with a smile.
“Yeah, well, we’re not exactly writing essays here,” Terra said, teasing.
Audrey Genia stepped up to Terra, eye to eye. “Be glad that you haven’t taken your mission seriously. Otherwise, I would have slain you. I still might if you anger me again.”
Terra smile widened. “I’d always welcome a challenge,” he said, letting his statement linger.
“Don’t tell me you’re flirting with another girl right in front of me,” Tiffany said, causing Terra to chuckle.
“You’re my one and only,” Terra said making Tiffany roll her eyes. He glanced back at Audrey Genia. “I’m not gonna try to kill Nathan. I promise. I’m done with this mission.”
Audrey Genia nodded in acknowledgment, she gave all of us a pensive look. Myadin looked deep in thought as well.
“It’s almost beyond belief that the Sinister Seven would take missions from Dusk.” Myadin glanced at Terra. “Even more so that they would order you kill your own friend.”
Terra sighed. “Trinity rarely cares about the mission parameters.”
“Darkshadow,” Audrey Genia hissed under her breath. “That woman has been a pain in my backside ever since I had come to that planet.”
Terra laughed. “You know how Trinity is. A cold-blooded Tainted assassin. She’d take a mission without a second thought.”
“Of course,” Audrey Genia said, unamused. “The Tainted. Another race the Omniverse could live without.”
Terra grinned but said nothing else.
“Wait,” I said, taking the moment of silence as a cue to speak. I didn’t want to ask but I had to know. “Terra, did you really kill Mr. Ryan?”
Terra glanced at me, resolute; but before he could respond, Myadin came to his aid.
“Mercy,” she said, careful. “Mr. Ryan was… He wasn’t from here, like us. He was a foreign agent from BRIM, a country on a different planet with different rules. Different laws. Based on what we know he was basically here to watch and then kill Terra.”
Audrey Genia sighed. “Humans, no matter what land they appear on always do such useless things.”
“You don’t have to sugar-coat it, teach,” Terra said, as I felt the apprehension increase in my chest. “Yeah, Mercy, I killed him.”
My heart fell through my chest. Even though he could be strict with students, our assistant principal was always nice to me. Logically, I knew and understood that there was more to the story than what I was told. That everything, Myadin said about Mr. Ryan was probably correct. Still, it made me feel uneasy being so close to his killer. My friend.
Kazuya, Audrey Genia, and Terra. Would I continue to be surrounded by people that could take the life of another without a second thought?
“When did you kill him?” Tiffany rasped.
“Yesterday, after you left,” Terra said, referring to when Tiffany stayed with him during after-school detention. “He was trying to follow me home before he attacked. I guess, he was getting impatient. That didn’t work out for him.”
I burned inside as Terra made light of his murder, my stomach churning. I knew it shouldn’t have affected me this much but I felt disgusted by him.
“What are your plans now, Terra?” our serpent-elf teacher asked, her violet eyes filled with intent.
“I want a normal life,” Terra said, contemplative. “For a while at least. I’m going to stay here and protect my buddy instead.” He gave Nathan a pointed glance.
“Won’t that put you at odds with the Sinister Seven?”
“I’ll contact Trinity and explain myself. Since you and Audrey Genia are here protecting him, she’ll understand if I couldn’t complete the mission. Might have to fib a little though.”
“What about the werewolf guy from before?” I asked.
“Oris?” Terra asked for confirmation and I nodded. “Don’t worry about him. He wouldn’t try anything now that he’s probably realized Audrey and Myadin are here. Once I talk with Trinity, he’ll back off.”
“So, Oris Keubare is nearby?” Myadin asked, looking past the football fields toward the hill wear the school was.
I remembered that I still had my class presentation in Japanese II with Rika. She was probably pissed that I hadn’t shown up, but I didn’t care. What I was involved in here was way more important and Myadin could vouch for us later.
“He goes by the last name Kester now.”
Myadin sniffed. “Trying to hide his origin?”
“Something like that.” Terra turned away from Myadin and Audrey Genia walked up to my sister and I. He paused, turning around to look at Nathan. “Nathan, Mercy,” he said, “Tiff. I apologize about all of this. For not telling you any of this stuff and who I was. I didn’t want to cause you guys stress from knowing my history, about why I was here. But I don’t have any excuses. I still want to be friends with all of you.” Terra paused. “Are we good?”
After a moment, Tiffany broke away from me and ran to her boyfriend enveloping him in a hug, before giving him a small peck on the lips. Terra looked at me, expectant. I gave him a slight nod before looking down and away. I heard gravel kick up from the track and glanced up. Thick tension filled the air as Nathan walked up to Terra and stared him down with an unreadable expression.
Still serious, Nathan extended a hand, Terra smirked and grabbed it.
“We’re good,” Nathan said as they shook.