Secrets 2.7

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Venom II

“Thinking about dating any other guys?” Lorie asked me as we walked down the corridor full of students. “I can’t believe you’re still single.”

Our first period had finished and Tiffany and I found ourselves walking with the rest of our friends; the eight of us followed Ashley to her locker, our daily routine. We had a couple of minutes before homeroom started and we’d often congregate around Ashley’s locker to socialize before going to our separate classes.

“I told you, I’m taking a break from dating.”

“But come on, you’ve been so down in the dumps ever since—” Lorie stopped herself as if she needed to rethink her words, “—since you and Timothy didn’t work out.”

I rolled my eyes, a faint feeling of anger rising in my body. “Thanks for bringing it up again, Lorie. Is dating another guy right after one broke my heart supposed to fix me?”

“I’m just saying though, taking the plunge and putting yourself back out there is what you need. Derrick wants to go out with you, you know that right? Why don’t you get him to spoil you a little?”

“We don’t all date new boys every month like you do, Lorie,” I said. Derrick was a jerk anyway.

“Emmy, that is so untrue.”

“Is that why you’re currently talking to three guys?” Tiffany asked, causing the others to laugh.

Lorie scowled. “I don’t want to her that from our school’s resident flirter. You’d probably sleep with any guy in our group.”

“Terra was my first and he’ll be my last,” Tiffany said with a sharp smile, remaining calm as she turned to look forward.  “We’re going to get married, have five kids, and live happily ever after.”

“Did she just say, five kids?”

“That’s crazy. Way too many.”

“It’ll be perfect,” Tiffany said. “Right Ems?”

I snorted in disbelief causing Tiffany to glare at me.

Brittany, who was closet to Lorie, giggled. “It’ll be okay Ems, You’ll find your prince charming one day. We’ll pray for you.”

Tiffany turned in my direction. “Don’t worry, Ems, at least you’re not dating Dillion.”

Brittany scoffed, as Tiffany mentioned her boyfriend. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Tiffany gave her a smile that I could only describe as sickeningly sweet. “I’m just saying he wouldn’t be right for Mercy.”

“That’s not what you’re saying.”

“It’s not? Please, enlighten me.”

“Okay, Grace Theophania Gaunt,” Brittany said, causing Tiffany to cringe, “I will. You’re still jealous that he wanted to go out with me, instead of you.”

“Don’t freaking call me that!” Tiffany snapped. “I fucking hate it when you do that. And I’m more than happy with my boyfriend, thank you very much. Eighth grade was a century ago.”

“That’s right you’re into girly guys now.”

“Terra’s actual classification is pretty boy, there is a difference.”

Brittany rolled her eyes.

“I don’t see why you hate your name so much,” Rika said to Tiffany. She had to turn her head to face us since she was walking side-by-side with Ashley. “I like it. It goes together with Mercy’s.”

“Mercy and Grace has a nice ring to it,” Ashley agreed.

For as long as I could remember, Tiffany refused to answer to her first name. My parents never understood why but it never bothered me. Intuitively, I knew how she felt about it.  She would always be my inseparable twin, no matter what name she went by.

“It doesn’t fit me.”

“And Theophania does?” Nicole asked, breaking away from her conversation with Diana.

“The variation does,” Tiffany said. “I don’t know what my parents were thinking, giving me that middle name.” She cowered behind me with her head down, pretending to shield herself from the judging gazes of our friends. “So embarrassing.”

I remembered when my sister started to go by the name of Tiffany, it was some time after an asshole made fun of her in middle school. A teacher had come up with the nickname and Tiffany fell in love with it.

“There, there, ” I said patting my sister gently. “It’ll be okay.”

“Alright. Back to cute boys,” Diana said, her voice uncharacteristically chirpy as she attempted to change the topic. “What do you guys think about Eric?”

“You think Eric is cute?” Lorie asked. “You’re so scandalous!”

What? He is.”

“I can’t,” Lorie said. “I just can’t.”

“Actually, I kinda agree with Diana. He has a cute face, but… that still leaves a lot to be desired, ” Tonya said. “But Michael though, he’s hot.”

Tonya’s statement about the athletic upperclassman drew some murmured agreements from the group.

“Michael is already dating Allison,” Lorie said.

Screw Allison. I can’t stand her,” Tonya said.

I frowned. Is that why you’re always seen acting chummy with her before fourth period?

“She’s always blabbing about her daddy issues,” Tonya said. “Complaining about her parents all the time and all the nasty shit her brother does. It’s like I don’t need to know all that, TMI.”

“Well, I’m glad Tyler is perfect,” Lorie said. “You don’t know what it’s like to be a guy that actually acts right.”

“You’re not even dating him,” Tiffany said.

“It’s called taking a break, have you heard of it?”

“If you want to call it that.”

“Enough,” Ashley said before Lorie could respond, looking exasperated. We had reached her locker. As she started to remove books from the compartment, the others resumed their own private conversations.

“Sooooo…” Lorie stood next to Tiffany and faced me. “Who else do you like?”

I sighed. “Oh my god, Lorie.”

“Nathan?” Diana offered, entering our conversation.

Lorie’s face lit up with giddiness as if she learned one of my most personal deep and dark secrets. “Oh? I didn’t know you like black guys. I couldn’t date one.”

What—Nathan is just a friend!”

Nathan was a good guy and I liked him, but I didn’t ‘like him’ like him.

“He does walk you to class every day,” Rika said.

Rika, how could you? I glanced at Rika, betrayed. She shrugged.

Aww…” Brittany teased. “So cute.  Don’t you just love it? I bet you wanna run your hands through his hair, touch his waves. Feel his dark chocolate skin…”

My eyes sealed shut and I could feel the blood rushing to my face.

“Brittany, really?” Tiffany asked.

“She’s not denying it.”

Before I could refute Brittany, Katherine approached us. Ashley had noticed first as she was already facing the middle of the hallway, ready to move after finishing with her locker. Naturally, our gazes followed as she inspected the raven-haired girl in silence. I thought about Katherine eavesdropping on our conversation in English class. How much did she hear? Would she reveal anything?

“Katherine,” Ashley said. “Can I help you?”

“…back,” Katherine muttered, looking down.

“Excuse me?”

Katherine visibly struggled with herself then walked a bit closer, standing in front of Rika. “Give it back.”

Rika gave Katherine a bland look of indifference. “Give what back? What the fuck are you talking about Yanagi?”

“You took something from her?” Ashley asked.

“No. She’s fucking losing it.”

“Lair!” Katherine gaze was downcast again, but not before I caught sight of the tears starting to run down her face. My heart started to ache.

“Oh my god,” Lorie said, with a giggle. “I think you broke her, Rika.”

“She was born broken,” Rika said, sneering. “What’s the wrong Yanagi? Don’t you know that it’s rude to accuse people of shit they didn’t do?”

Katherine remained mute, unable to look up.

“Such a weirdo,” Brittany hissed while looking at Katherine, disgusted.

When Katherine didn’t respond, Rika stepped forward, towering over her. “I think you should apologize.”

Katherine glanced up with her tearful face, confused. “What…?”

“Yeah, I agree,” Diana said, with a faint smile. “Coming at Rika like that.”

“She should apologize for being a freaking creep,” Tonya said.

“Don’t be so mean, guys, she probably wants to say she’s sorry for causing all that drama from before,” Nicole said, referring to the time we kicked her out of our group. “I mean just look at her… Kathy just can’t help being a loser.”

Most of our friends chuckled in agreement but my sister wasn’t amused and I felt horrible. Ashley met the eyes of me and my sister and then she gave Katherine a searching look.

“That’s enough,” she ordered in a forceful voice, cutting through the laughter. I noticed Lorie and the others hesitant to say anything as Ashley emitted a slither of energy from her invisible yet still majestic aura. Ashley turned away from Katherine to face the group. “Come on, it’s time for us to go to class.”

We did as Ashley ordered, some girls whispering and talking in hushed voices as we passed Katherine while sneaking glances at her—entertained by her distress. I couldn’t bear to look her direction; the guilt was tying my stomach in knots. Our group went our separate ways, Diana following me and my sister back to Ms. Frazzle’s class.

As we entered homeroom, I notice Nathan and Terra were sitting at their desks chatting. The boys glanced up and Nathan waved to greet us.  I gave them a hesitant smile, waiting in the doorway as my sister stepped further inside. I peered back into the hall, my thoughts still on Katherine.

“What’s wrong?” Tiffany asked.

“I… I need to check on Katherine,” I said. “I need to see if she’s okay.”

I had left Katherine all alone to deal with the bullying of our bitch squad… too afraid to speak up and do anything about it for fear of being ostracized myself. But this couldn’t go on. It almost like Katherine’s suffering was hurting me.  I had to do something.

Tiffany frowned at me but didn’t argue. “Okay. I’m going with you.”

We left the classroom a second letter without giving the boys a chance to ask what was going on. The both of us scampered toward Ashley’s locker, part of me wondering if Katherine would still be standing there. She wasn’t, of course, but we found out from a few classmates in the hall that she went the bathroom.

“So you’ve finally decided you want to talk to her again,” Tiffany said as we walked closer to the bathroom entrance. “Why the change of heart?”

I shook my head, thinking about the small girl that looked like Katherine in my dreams. “I don’t know. I’m not sure what we can do about the girls being mean. But maybe… If I talk to her, we can figure something out. At least I can help her with whatever she was upset about. It’s the least I could do.”

Tiffany seemed doubtful. “She’ll be angry,” she warned.

I didn’t care. “And I accept that. She has every right to be.” I paused before pushing on the bathroom door.

“Worried?” Tiffany asked.

“A little. But not just of Katherine.”

“You worried about what Rika and the other girls will think? So what?”

“It’s just—I feel like if we try to become friends with Katherine again, it will cause a lot of drama and I don’t want to deal with it. It would be us versus everyone else and it will tear our group apart. Everyone will blame us. I bet that’s why Ashely turns a blind eye to them picking on her. Because she knows that’s how it will turn out. “

Tiffany stopped me from entering the restroom, her arm baring me as she looked me dead in the eye. “So fucking what? You think Ashley actually gives a damn about what they do or don’t do? She’s a god, Mercy. If you wanna do this seriously, then we do this seriously. No half-assing.  We’re going to stop Katherine from being messed with because it’s the right to do, with or without Ashley’s help—regardless of the consequences. If the girls have a problem, they can fuck off.”

Unable think of anything to say, I nodded. Katherine’s shrill scream sounded from a stall as we entered the restroom, causing us to pause. Katherine started to sob.

“Kill them! Hate you!” she cried, her words not making any sense. “I’m going to kill them all.”

My sister and I shared a cautious glance. Katherine calmed down, her painful sobs reduced to light sniffles.  She exited the furthermost stall, drifting toward the sink like a zombie. Katherine was looking at herself in the dirty mirror when I called out to her.

“Katherine,” I said, in a soft voice. “Are you okay?”

Katherine’s head snapped in our direction, her mouth opened in shock. Long strands of hair covered her face making her expression hard to see, but I could tell her eyes and cheeks were red from crying. She backed away from us, looking like a wounded animal.

“S-stay away, stay away from me!” she shouted.

That familiar filling of guilt throbbed inside me.

“Hey, calm down,” Tiffany said, hands out in a placating manner. “We’re not gonna do anything.”

“And you expect me to believe that? After everything you’ve done to me?”

“Be more specific, I don’t recall me or Mercy ever doing or saying something mean to you.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Katherine said, her sharp voice laced with resentment. “I know you’ve been talking about me behind my back, you agree with them.”

Where did she hear that from? Lorie? I tugged on the sleeve to Tiffany’s coat, stopping her from responding back. She gave me a questioning look but she let me step forward.

“I know you’re angry, Katherine,” I said. “We just want to help you.”

“Help me?” she asked, bitterly. “Like when you ignored me every time I tried to talk to you after Rika started picking on me?”

I sighed. “Did Rika take something from you? What was it? Maybe we can get it back.”

“Why the hell should I trust you?”

“You don’t have to,” Tiffany said. “But do you really have a choice?”

Tiffany,” I said, her tone making me feel a bit cross.

“My diary.” Katherine was quiet as she refused to look at me. “She took it.”

That didn’t sound good. Rika was probably planning to announce it to the girls before or during our lunch period. Reading Katherine’s diary out loud to humiliate her was something Rika would jump at the chance of doing.

“Shit,” I muttered. “When did it happen?”

Katherine shook her head. “Earlier, before first period. Don’t you remember?”

I didn’t. When I was at my locker then, I saw Rika and some of the boys in the hallway, but I didn’t stay long enough watch them pounce on Katherine. I didn’t want to get involved. She still must have noticed.

“They stole my book bag. It fell out when I tripped and Rika stole it before I could do anything.”

“They took everything?” Tiffany asked.

“Not my book bag. They let me have it after they got bored, but Rika left.”

I frowned. They must have toyed with her for minutes. I bet it felt like an eternity to her. Pity welled up in my chest.

“We’ll get your diary from Rika,” I promised.

Katherine faced me, resigned. Like she had no choice but to accept our help.

“Why?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” I asked confused.

“Why do want to help me now?!”

I steeled myself, ready to take on the brunt of her blame and anger. “Because it’s the right thing to do,” I said. “Tiff and I, we never wanted to see you like this. And I… never meant to hurt you. I was afraid.”

Katherine seemed mystified. “Afraid?”

“Yeah. I didn’t want them to turn on me for being friends with you after Rika got angry at you. I didn’t want to ruin the rest of our clique. But… even though I want to deny it, part of me… didn’t want to hang out with you anymore.”

Katherine swallowed, hard.

“Ems…” I could feel Tiffany’s hand on my shoulder.

“It’s hard to explain. I don’t hate you, Katherine. It’s… I know I’m being irrational but, deep down, for some reason, I blamed you for causing the small rift between us and our friends. For being such an easy target for Rika, letting her mess with you. I blamed you for not putting in the effort to fit in with us more.” I shook my head. “I was stupid and… I’m sorry.”

Tears started to run down her face. “I’ll never forgive you.”

“That’s okay. If you will allow me to be your friend again, I can accept that.”

I could hear two girls getting closer to the bathroom, their voices getting louder as they approached. A familiar laugh. Katherine froze, she was going to say something but her mouth clamped shut.

“I thought I saw couple familiar faces coming in here…” Brittany said as she entered the bathroom with Rika by her side, trailing off when she noticed Katherine.

Rika sneered, realizing what caught Brittany off guard. “Well, well, well, what the fuck do we have here?”

“Rika,” I said, getting her attention. “Stop it.”

Both Rika and Brittany were surprised. “Don’t tell me your feeling sorry for this twerp,” Rika said.

“Her diary,” Tiffany said. “Are you going to give it back?”

Rika tried to hide her annoyance, but it was still visible on her face. “Sure. After homeroom. My teacher doesn’t let us out of class more than once.”

I couldn’t tell with Britanny was thinking, but she went along with Rika as she left the restroom. I guess Rika was too offended by us defending Katherine. She would have to deal with it.

“…Thanks,” Katherine muttered before leaving, soon after.

“Well that didn’t go too bad,” I said, glancing at my sister.

“Yeah, we’ll see.”

Homeroom went by in a blur. I couldn’t really get into the conversation Nathan was having with Terra and Tiffany, about Ms. Frazzle’s and Ashley’s powers. About how they practically live with him—visiting his home every day without his parents knowing. I would be normally be intrigued by such juicy convo material, but I was focused on Katherine. Would Rika give up her diary just like that? She was always stubborn.

I walked back to my locker with Nathan and my sister, not only to get my stuff for Algebra II but to keep an eye out for Katherine. She walked by in hurry to get to her locker, but she wasn’t fast enough. Though it wouldn’t seem like it someone else, I could tell most of our posse—Rika, Tonya, Brittany, and Lorie were hot on her tail, strolling behind her while talking. Pretending like they weren’t focused on Katherine at all.

“Oh shit,” Nathan said, as he zeroed in on the girls enclosing her.  Katherine was trapped within a nest of snakes. I saw Rika with a book a hand. It was brown with a golden design. Elegant. It was similar to a grimoire. That had to be Katherine’s diary.

“Check out this book I found,” Rika said, addressing the girls like Katherine wasn’t even there.

“Looks like a diary,” Lorie said. “But since it was laying on the floor in the hallway, whoever owned it doesn’t seem to want it anymore.”

“Really?” Tonya asked. “Then why don’t we take look.”

Rika opened the book and started to flip through the first few pages. Katherine started to shake, unable to face them. I hurried over, moving faster than Nathan who followed to help.

“Let’s see,” Rika said. “September Eighteenth, twenty thirteen,” Rika adjusted her voice to sound more girly. “I hate school, I hate everyone there, the only thing I can stand is physics.”

“Such a nerd,” Lorie called out.

“Mr. Thompson is nice. Sometimes.” Amused, Rika paused looking around at the other girls for effect. “I used to think he was a jerk, he was mean and everyone was making a big deal about him. But at least he was kind enough to give me private lessons.” Rika raised her raised her eyebrows. “Well now, would you look at that.”

“Oooh, looks like somebody’s getting it on with the new physics teacher!”

“Wow, and I expected Mr. Thompson to actually have standards.”

I heard enough. Pushing my way past Brittany I tried to snatch the diary away from Rika. She raised it over my head as I practically tried to climb her like a tree to get it.

“Mercy, what the fuc—“

Rika was caught off guard as Nathan took it from her grip.

“What are you doing?” Rika looked like she couldn’t believe what just happened.

“Making things right,” I said. “When you said you would give her diary back this isn’t what I had in mind.”

“You’ve always been a buzzkill, Mercy. I don’t know how Tiffany deals with it. Probably why Tim dumped your ass.”

Ah. My mouth dropped; I was taken aback. Verbally, Rika punched me straight in the gut. I couldn’t believe she would go that far.

“Hey!” Tiffany exclaimed, standing beside me. “You better watch yourself Rika. I’ve had about enough of your attitude.”

“And I had about enough of your bullshit.”

Things were getting heated; Tiffany and Rika were moments away from getting into a catfight. This was what I was afraid of.

“Why are you guys defending this loser?” Brittany asked.

“She’s not a loser, she’s my friend,” I said, resolute. I stepped to Rika. “Your bullying of Katherine stops. Now.”

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Secrets 2.3

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Schoolyard Rumble 

What?

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.

“Well, what?”

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.”

“That’s apparent.”

“She has nothing to do with this.”

“She’s a liability,” Oris growled.

“I know.”

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.”

“Hmm.”

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.”

I giggled.

“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.

“Just stop.”

“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.”

“Wha—”

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.

Previous Next

Secrets 2.1

Previous Next

Return From Heaven

My sister and I sat down at a fairly empty table, placing our small lunch trays on its surface. I speared a nugget with my fork and popped it into my mouth, Tiffany eying me all the while. We ate in silence for a few more moments before she popped the question.

“So, you keep seeing this huge castle in your dreams?”

I swallowed before frowning. “Yeah. It’s been getting clearer.” Ever since we’d come across Kazuya, I’d been having dreams of that land and the castle where the dragon king resided—of the children who would play with us there. Two of them, a small black boy and a girl with Asian features, oddly reminded me of Nathan and Katherine, my classmates.

“You see anyone in particular?”

I paused for a moment, thinking that over. Kazuya had been there, with a group of Valterians together in a city of gold. “I saw another fox person too, a woman, like a female version of Kazuya. I think someone that looked like Shekhinah was there too—and some other Arcadians.”

“That’s so weird,” Tiffany mused while frowning.” I haven’t had any visions or dreams like that at all. Maybe it’s a sign or something.”

“Maybe,” I muttered. “I remember our mom and dad—I think it was Mom and Dad—holding our hands, walking with us in a golden city. Mom had wings like the other Arcadians did. Somehow, though, I knew she was a Valterian, like Kazuya. But she was a different race or something, you know? Kinda like how Kazuya explained how he, PTE, and Nexus were each from different breeds.”

Tiffany nodded. “What did Dad look like?”

I pressed my lips together in contemplation.  “Not sure, it’s still kinda fuzzy. It’s hard for me to describe exactly how Mom looked too.  Dad wasn’t a Valterian, he looked similar to Shekhinah except he was covered head to toe in silver armor.”

“Huh, so Arcadian then. I wonder what that means.”

“That our parents are actually gods pretending to be human—and they never told us?”

Tiffany’s eyes met mine. “Should we ask them?”

“Do you think they would actually tell us?”

“It’s worth a shot. We’d probably get in trouble though. They’d find out we lied again.”

My head dropped in defeat. I really didn’t want to explain to my parents how we found ourselves entangled in the middle of a cape fight. How I nearly died. I didn’t want to tell them that we managed to stick a virulent god who threatened to kill us in our basement either. If we told them what happened and they weren’t really gods or capes, it wouldn’t have been worth it.

I sighed. “This is why I wish Kazuya didn’t disappear on us.”

Tiffany was about to say something else when I pointed at Terra, who was walking up behind her, to get her attention. She turned to look his direction. Terra sat next to Tiffany, quickly dropping his food tray down on the table. Tiffany automatically poked at his plate with a fork and stole one of his chicken nuggets even though she hadn’t touched her own. Terra’s lips quirked upward as he grabbed Tiffany’s unopened milk, ignoring her protests.

I grinned as Tiffany attempted to feed Terra his stolen food back. The nugget stuck on the end the fork she gently held while she stuck it in Terra’s face. Terra rolled his eyes before eating it.

“You’re way too stressed out,” Tiffany said, looking at me while she continued to prod the air around Terra’s face with her now empty utensil. Terra swatted her fork away. “That’s probably why you’re having these freaky dreams. You need a new boyfriend,” she glanced at Terra thoughtfully. “Maybe we should share this guy?”

I scrunched up my face and narrowed my eyes at my identical twin, seriously wondering why in the world she would suggest something like that. I didn’t want to be a walking stereotype.

“So I’m ‘this guy’ now?” Terra asked amused. He smirked as he saw my expression. “I don’t think Mercy appreciates that idea, Tiff.”

Tiffany hummed. “You’re right. I’m too selfish to share you anyway,” she jabbed a finger at the bridge of Terra’s nose. “You belong to me,” Tiffany paused, looking Terra in the eye with an enthusiastic grin. “For-ev-er,” she said enunciating each syllable of the word while she snapped her fingers in Terra’s face—obnoxiously snapping her head from one side to the other at the same time.

Terra rolled his eyes with a smirk but he said nothing.

“I think I need a break from dating, in general,” I said. I glanced at Terra, who was trying his best to keep Tiffany’s hand at bay, blocking the tenuous pokes of her finger; he had made her cower backward as he threatened her with a barrage of his own playful slaps. “Why are you sitting here instead of with Nathan and the rest of the boys?”

Terra let out a brief chuckle, removing strands of long hair from his face after he finished batting Tiffany’s hands away. “I’m just tired of watching Tim trying to run game on Ashley. Besides, you guys were sitting here.”

As soon as Terra had mentioned my ex, I unconsciously looked over at the crowded table at the end of the lunchroom. The one next to the entrance of the outdoor lunch area; a table full of popular underclassmen. Were we usually sat. I caught Timothy sitting next to Ashley. He was smiling and joking around with her, attempting to get more of her attention. A nauseous yet burning feeling of disgust crawled up inside my stomach.

Tiffany gave me a quick glance before she scowled at Terra. “Don’t talk about that asshole around Ems.”

I shook my head. “It’s fine, Tiff.”

“No it’s not,” Tiffany said sharply, causing me to frown. “He’s a fucking rapist and he hurt you.”

I bit my lip hard, feeling annoyed even though I knew my sister was just worried and looking out for me. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of what happened that night or draw more attention to it. It was something better left forgotten.

“I have half of a mind to tell somebody what he did. I wonder what Ashley and the rest of girls he flirts with would think of him then.”

“That would just make things worse,” I said. My fists—currently laid on the table—tightened. “Just—just forget it.”

Tiffany glared at me and Terra interrupted the two of us before we fell into an argument.

“Is that why you guys aren’t sitting at the normal table with everyone else?” Terra asked. “I passed by it on the way here. People are talking. Ashley wants to know why you two have been avoiding her all day.”

I frowned internally at his words. Timothy was only one of the reasons we had avoided sitting with our normal group of friends. The harassment and bullying that the girls had continued to foist upon poor Katherine had started to become unbearable to watch.

“Then let them talk,” Tiffany said. “Ems still feels a little bothered by the Katherine thing.”

I made a grimace in distaste, guilt and shame erupted in my chest as I looked down at my lunch tray. Katherine Yanagi used to be a friend of mine, since freshman year. Though Katherine was considered to be nerdy by most, Ashley Hawke had taken a peculiar interest in her and had her join our group. I wasn’t sure why, exactly. Maybe it was because she could help us with our math homework or something. Katherine and I became close, she became more attached to me than Tiffany. She would often wait for me at my locker before homeroom so we could talk about her interest in Starcraft or some of the new books she was reading.

Our friendship didn’t last. Katherine had a falling out with Rika, my soccer teammate. A girl that could’ve been considered Ashley’s right hand. Ashley soon involved herself and Katherine was unofficially excommunicated from us. Soon after that, the bullying started. Ashley didn’t do anything to Katherine personally, something like that was beneath her. But she still didn’t stop our friends from cruelly torturing the girl.

Spilling drinks on her clothing. Egging the boys on to knock her books down in the hallways between classes. Stealing her homework assignments.

Worst of all was the fact that I stood by and did nothing about it. For some reason, after everyone started picking on her, I stopped talking to her. Our conversations had died off. I had let our friendship go. It eroded into dust just like that. For a moment, I was reminded of her teary eyes as she looked at me, pitifully crumpled to the floor with her clothing in a mess. She was pleading and asking why I wouldn’t help her. Asking why I was still friends with Ashley, still apart of her bitch squad.

Terra’s smile thinned after Tiffany brought up Katherine. He looked away, his eyes scanning the rest of the cafeteria. “Someone needs to talk to Ashley about that. It’s fucked up.”

“I’ve been telling the boys to knock it off,” Tiffany said. “But they don’t listen unless someone punches them in the face.”

I mulled the thoughts of Katherine over in my head. I didn’t help her and didn’t talk to her anymore. Why? Was it because I didn’t like her actions upsetting the peace that us girls had among one another other? Because she didn’t stay in her place? Maybe it because I was afraid of Ashley and the power she held. Tiffany had an excuse. I didn’t. She wasn’t friends with Katherine like I was.

“That’s not the only reason we choose to sit here though,” Tiffany continued. “We wanted to talk about something important. In secret.”

“So I’ve heard,” Terra replied. “You mean talk about what happened to you guys that night after the party? When I talked to you before first period, you told me you guys were involved in a cape fight.”

“Oh. My. God. Terra, you wouldn’t believe what happened after you left,” Tiffany said, grabbing Terra’s arm and moving her face closer toward his, getting in his personal space. Terra remained still, allowing his girlfriend to drag his forearm around. “You should have come with us. It was insane! They weren’t just regular capes either. We met freaking gods.”

“Gods?”

“Yeah. Two types, they’re called Valterians and Arcadians.”

Tiffany went into detail, explaining the fight we were plopped into and how we had met Kazuya. What we had learned about the gods: the source of hallowed powers. How ruthless Kazuya was in killing Shekhinah’s subordinates. How I was nearly cut in half.

Terra took it all in silently. He looked between the both of us with his penetrating gaze. “Well, I’m glad you guys are alright but are you guys seriously hiding someone that powerful in your basement?”

“Don’t look at me,” Tiffany said. She nudged me with a lazy finger. “Ems’ the one that wanted him around. I think we should’ve let the angel lady take him.”

Terra narrowed his eyes at her but the corners of his mouth curved upward. “Is that true, Mercy?”

Sure,” I said, drawing out the word while giving my sister a look. Tiffany was the one that actually grabbed Kazuya from Shekhinah’s hands. She tilted her head and winked, giving me an exaggerated smirk. I faced Terra, ignoring her. “It doesn’t really matter though since he had left last night.”

“Which is a good thing,” Tiffany said.

I sighed. “I wish he actually stuck around to answer our questions. I wanted to ask him about that place with the dragon king.”

Terra shifted in his seat, ever so slightly. Tiffany, whose arm was still touching his, noticed.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, looking at her boyfriend. “You don’t believe us?”

“No, I believe you alright,” Terra said, giving Tiffany a cheeky smile. “You couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s too crazy to be a joke, even for you.”

Tiffany stuck her tongue out at him. “One of these days, if our parents are out late working you should come over and meet fox-boy.”

“I will if you don’t get caught with him in the basement first,” Terra snarked.

“Well, if he actually comes back,” I added.

“Of course he’ll come back,” Tiffany said, flailing her hands in exasperation. “He’s a useless freeloader. A bum. It’s in his nature. Ems, do you actually think will never see that hairy mutt again? Always so stupidly naive and optimistic. What am I going to do with you?”

I rolled my eyes, smiling despite myself. “Whatever.”

“Such a mean sister,” Terra chided.

Stay out of it,” Tiffany ordered, jabbing his cheek with a finger. “This is a conversation between sisters.” She looked him up and down with a scathing look. “You might look the part, but that’s not enough to cut it.”

Terra frowned. “Don’t touch me.” Tiffany continued to prod Terra’s face at an even more fevered face. Chuckling, Terra finally grabbed her wrist midway through another poke. “Keep playing, and I’mma have to do something to you,” he warned.

Tiffany bit her lip and narrowed her eyes, giving him a seductive smile. “Do something and you won’t get any pussy for a week.”

Terra’s lips twitched with barely repressed humor. “You’re grounded for a week.”

“Just because I say a week doesn’t mean I’m talking about this one.”

“Of course,” Terra said dryly.

We ate and talked a little bit longer before Ashley, the perfect sophomore queen herself, strolled up to us. We spoke in hushed voices as she approached, looking up at her silently when she arrived at our table. She had come alone. I glanced at the empty tray she had in hand, her lunch eaten. The only reason Ashley walked by us was to throw her trash away.

“Sup?” Terra asked.

“Hey Ash,” Tiffany said in a plain voice, betraying nothing.

Ashley glanced at us for a moment in silence as if she were trying to feel us out, to figure out where our heads were at. She smiled. “Hello. Any reason why you three didn’t sit with us today?”

“Not really, just talking about personal stuff,” Tiffany said, giving her a strained smile. A smile she would often give me during the times I genuinely pissed her off.

“Personal stuff?” Ashley’s gaze overlooked my sister and I, her pretty hazel eyes vacillating between us at a leisured pace. “I heard that you two had gotten into trouble.”

“Yeah our parents caught us trying to sneak back in the house after the party,” Tiffany said, her lips forming into a small pout. “Of all the days they chose to stay up late, it was that day.”

“It was a Friday night,” Terra commented.

Ashley hummed to herself. “It’s unfortunate, but I’ll put in a good word for you so you’ll be in decent standing when you come back to the team. It’s a relief that the two of you don’t start yet.”

There it is. I kept myself from rolling my eyes as the corners of my lips lifted a little. There she goes again, still rubbing that in.

“Did you find out we got in trouble from Coach Stephen?” I asked.

Ashley shook her head. “No. Rika and Nicole told me. Did you directly tell the coach you couldn’t practice?”

“Yeah. He’s not too happy about it.”

“Of course he’s not. I’m not either. You both are valuable assets to the team. However, I can’t blame you, I was at that cad’s party as well.”

Tiffany snickered at Ashley’s choice of words. “Not too fond of Tim, I take it?”

Ashley’s calm and demure demeanor changed as her slight smile thinned. She tilted her head and shifted her body weight, holding her hips with unrestrained attitude. Timothy must’ve annoyed the crap out of her. “He tries my patience like none other.”

Tiffany scoffed. “I can believe that.”

“It seems like everyone knows we got grounded for going to Tim’s party,” I said.

“You know gossip runs in this school like wildfire,” Ashley said. “Anyway, what exactly happened that night? You had disappeared and when I talked to Nicholas, he said you three left early.”

“I had gotten sick.”

“What she really means is that boy that’s been fawning all over you since the start of the semester tried to rape her.”

Ashley paused. I let out a choked cough, my eyes flashing over to Tiffany—wide with shock. She didn’t have to bring that up now. I slowly turned back to Ashley, only to notice that she was already examining me with a careful glare.

“Really now?” she asked in a cold voice, her hazel eyes on mine. They almost seemed if they were glowing gold—freezing me in place. “Didn’t you two break up?”

“Don’t worry about it,” I mumbled, looking downward. I didn’t want her to see it—I didn’t want her to see whatever I felt, the emotional turmoil that raged deep inside me like an endless storm—threatening to swallow me whole.

“No,” Ashley said with a definitive voice, her eyes still inspecting me. “I’ll handle it. He should know better than to do something so disgusting and despicable to one of my friends.”

“While you’re at it you should tell Rika and the girls to knock it off. Get them to stop picking on Katherine,” Tiffany said while folding her arms. “It’s making us all look really bad.”

Ashley looked toward her table. Everyone was clamoring to get up, squeezing out of the seats that were stuck so close together. Students moved toward the garbage cans in droves, throwing out their trash while taking their empty lunch trays to the kitchen. People were cleaning up. Our lunch period had ended.

“I can agree with that,” Ashley said somewhat bemused. She gave my sister and me one last glance. “Anyway, Mercy. Tiffany. I’ll see you both in history class.” She faced the silverish-gray eyed boy next to my sister. “Terra.”

Terra leaned back in his seat; he nodded a subtle goodbye without speaking. Ashley left us and we had started to clean up our table so we could make it back to our classes on time.

After the lunch, the rest of the day had gone by quickly—surprising for a Monday. After we finished our last class of the day with Mr. Tate, Tiffany and I had split up. I went to my locker to retrieve my math textbook while Tiffany went on a small adventure in search of Terra. Packing my things at the locker, I waited a couple of minutes for my sister and her boyfriend to meet up with me.

They didn’t show. I checked my phone. The buses would leave soon. Tired of waiting, I decided to go look for them. What mess had Terra and Tiffany gotten into now? I almost sent Tiffany a text, but then I decided against it. I knew she wouldn’t answer me, or worse, answer back when it was too late.

I moved through the crowded hallways, bumping into various students that were busy trying to reach the school exits. Looking for Tiffany and Terra was more of a pain than I thought it would be, with people constantly blocking my path. I fought my way upstream, pushing past everyone; I went the opposite way of oncoming traffic. Soon, I found myself crashing into Diana, a friend of mine I had met through Ashley.

“Looking for Tiff?” she asked with a slight smile, looking like her usual perceptive self. “I saw her with Terra walking outside. Near the front of the school.”

What were they doing on opposite side of the building? It was time to go. I thanked Diana quickly before moving on, the hallways of students clearing up as I moved toward the other side of the school, toward the front. Eventually, I found Tiffany and Terra outside, sitting on the steps to the main school entrance.

“What are you guys doing?” I said after walking out the front door from the inside. “The buses are going to leave.”

Tiffany stood up and shook her head as she rambled toward me. “Terra got held up by some stupid bullshit. He has after-school detention.”

I clasped my forehead with a hand and leaned back in irritation, my head facing toward the sky. “Again? Are you serious?”

“It’s the damn assistant principal,” Tiffany complained, her eyes focused on Terrawho was still sitting on the concrete steps. “I swear he has a hard-on for you or something.”

Terra snorted at her remark, looking miffed.

“I’m going to stay with him for a bit. You hurry up and catch the bus,” Tiffany said.

I frowned. “If Mom and Dad get back early and you’re not home, you’re going to get chewed out.”

Tiffany glanced at me and giving me a careful smile. She placed a hand on my shoulder.

“That’ll be my problem, Ems. You don’t need to get dragged down with me all the time.”

“If you’re sure.”

“I’ll try come home as soon as I can.”

I left them both at the steps, going back inside the school. I hoped I could reach the school bus parking lot in time. It helped that I could run through the building now that it was practically empty, except for the janitors and a few faculty members. I was the last person to make to the bus lot but I had arrived just in time. Exactly when the first row of buses had started to leave.

The bus ride home was quiet as I sat in the front. The back of the bus was crowded, full of people I really didn’t talk to or associate with. It made sense. I was used to staying after school for soccer practice, with my sister. In and out of school we spent most of our time hanging around the girls on the team. Since practice would always end after the late bus had already left, our parents often picked us up unless we were offered a ride home from a teammate.

The bus ride back took longer than usual as our driver had to navigate around the area of roads that were blocked off by SIGMA and the police. Blocked off from damage caused by the fight between Kazuya, Shekhinah, and her Arcadian warriors. Warning signs along with SIGMA trucks littered the sides of the street while yellow caution tape could be seen everywhere between the roads and houses, obstructing specific areas. 

I had gotten off the bus with a couple students but we quickly parted ways, everyone going to their own places. The bus stop was relatively close to my house. It was only a five-minute walk.

Arriving home, I used my keys to enter through the side door, next to the garage. Our parent’s cars weren’t in the driveway. They didn’t get back from work yet. After locking the side door from the inside, I briskly climbed the small steps to reach the second door that led inside the house.

I paused. It was quiet. Too quiet. My gut started to sink after a nagging feeling of caution had overwhelmed me. Something had felt off. I couldn’t quite place it. Energy filled the air. A tense pressure I hadn’t felt since that fateful Friday night after Timothy’s house party. When my sister I walked back home alone. I shook my head. What was I afraid of? I opened the door and wandered inside. After locking the door I turned around, my eyes widened as I saw a flash of gold.

Shekhinah, the Arcadian warrior of Kairanna, the one who wielded the blood-colored poisonous lance that was able to wound Kazuya—was standing right in the middle of our living room!

I shrieked and fell backward, terrified—fearing for my life. Shekhinah, who was busy glancing at the family pictures hanging on the wall, turned to face me. As she took a step closer, her horned helmet evaporated, vanishing from her head into thin air—letting her long hair run free.

Shekhinah stopped as she saw me scramble away from her; I slid backward on the wooden floor, edging away slowly. She paused for a moment and the shining aura around her beautiful armor had dimmed a little.

“Peace, child,” she said while studying me calmly. “I only I wish to speak with you.”

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Prologue II

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Ashley Hawke lounged in the back of her seat as she waited for the history teacher to finish speaking. Her mind in a daze, she almost fell asleep.

That blissful state soon ended as she was disturbed by the sound of the class packing their books. Ashley turned to her left and looked up at the clock under the ceiling. Only a few minutes were left in class. Soon they would be free from the boring prison known as school.

Ashley quickly packed her books even as the teacher complained about students packing up early. She didn’t care really; Mr. Tate never had the backbone to enforce his rules.

Only two more minutes left in class. Ashley could hear the excited whispers of her fellow classmates as they began to talk about what they had planned for the weekend. The group of girls next to her talked quietly, smiling and making glances toward her.

Ashley rolled her eyes in annoyance. The girls, six in all, were part of a popular clique of underclassmen. One that Ashley herself was the leader of. They were her so-called “friends” and were probably going to bug her about her weekend plans.

As the bell rang and class was dismissed, Ashley retrieved her book bag from the floor next to her desk. As Ashley stood up and readied herself to leave, she was approached by two of her friends, smiling at her.

“Ashley! Wait up!” Lorie said. The small blonde girl positioned herself between Ashley and the door. “We’re going out with the boys, remember?”

Ashley narrowed her eyes but had a hint of a smile on her face. “Ah. Yeah. To the movies right?” Everyone was always trying to drag her around. No doubt Timothy would be there. He was known as a good-looking boy in her grade who made no intention of hiding his crush on her. Ashley shook her head a little. She liked having people that desired to be around her, but if they were annoying she would get irritated.

It was only natural, though, that everyone would want to bask in the presence of a smart and beautiful girl like herself. But she was much more than that. Much more.

She was a sophomore at Franklin High School, yet in some ways it felt like she ran the place. Ashley was a starter on the school volleyball and soccer team. The upperclassmen boys adored her while the girls secretly hated her. She was one of the most popular girls in school and almost always had the favor of the teachers. It was Ashley’s very being that drew others to her, and she knew it. It could be considered a blessing and a curse.

That is what it means to be a god.

Ashley walked outside of the class with her friends Lorie and Tonya. Heading toward her locker she could see the rest of her clique congregated around it. The girls were busy flirting with a group of boys nearby. Ashley could see Timothy with them. She caught him glancing at her with a smile.

“Hmph!” Ashley huffed, grinning. Tonya took her smile as a reason to voice her opinion.

“He’s pretty hot. And he likes you. I think he’s gonna ask you out,” Tonya said.

“Not interested.”

“What?”

Tonya turned around and attempted to question Ashley about why she wouldn’t want a date with the perfect looking boy. Ashley waved her off. As Ashley put her books inside her locker compartment, she was swarmed with attention from the students around her area. She conversed with them a little until she found herself face to face with Timothy.

Ashley had to look up to see the tall boy’s face. Tim’s grin became wider as she did.

“Hey,” he said. “We’re going to the movies tonight, coming with?”

There was a little tension in the air between them as he dropped those words. He was attractive. Ashley observed him for a moment unfazed. She looked over his well-kept brown hair and then looked straight into his piercing gray eyes.

“I’ll be there,” she said.

“I’ll pick you up,” Timothy replied.

She wasn’t fond of the idea of being in a car with Tim, but she agreed to it anyway. Maybe she would get some amusement out of rejecting him tonight. He asked if she needed a ride home as well but she said no. Heading toward the school entrance she made her way toward the buses taking students home with her friends.

Before making it to the door she almost found herself running into someone. It was another student. He apologized, embarrassed after almost crashing into her. Ashley frowned; how could someone be so absent-minded? The kinky haired boy glanced away as she viewed his face. He seemed nervous. Without even saying anything she continued walking on with the rest of her group. After a few steps, she turned her head back to look at the brown-skinned boy, who was rushing the opposite direction to his locker. He must have forgotten something.

“So that’s my master, huh?” she asked quietly before turning back around.

oOo

Shaun Thompson stood in front of Franklin High School looking up at the name plastered on top of the three-story building. So this is where he would be teaching from now on, he thought. He began to walk up the wide flight of steps toward the school entrance with his briefcase in hand. As he opened the doors his shaggy black hair blew forward as a current of cold air from outside rushed into the school.

As he entered the school building, he wondered what being a teacher at this school would be like. It wouldn’t be his first time teaching; he started as a substitute and teacher’s assistant for many years. However, this would be the first time he had a class all to himself.

On top of that, the school was huge. There were a couple thousand students. Most were decent enough but in his opinion, there were a couple of bad apples.

Shaun remembered yesterday when he was putting most of his items and teaching material the in his classroom. He could remember a student, a young girl getting harassed by a group of other girls. It was close by his classroom but Shaun opted to stay out of it. He wasn’t officially known as a teacher at the time and he had no problem with avoiding the issues of some teenage brats.

Shaun was jolted out of his thoughts as he could hear the sound of clacking heels headed toward him. He stood up straight to face the brunette haired woman. She walked until she was a few feet in front of him.

The woman gave him a warm smile and put out her hand.

“You must be the new physics teacher!” she said. “I’m Selena Frazzle.”

Shaun smiled slightly shaking her hand. “Hi, I’m Shaun Thompson.”

“Oh! So you’re the young physics genius everyone was talking about,” Ms. Frazzle said. “I’ve heard a lot about you from Mr. Hardy. How old are you?”

“Twenty-two ma’am,” he replied.

“Wow, so you just graduated college?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Just call me Selena.”

Ms. Frazzle’s sparkling eyes were boring into Shaun almost as if they could see through him. Ms. Frazzle continued to ask questions. She then talked about the various teachers and departments of the school.

“Well it was nice meeting you,” Ms. Frazzle finished.

“Likewise,” Mr. Thompson said while looking around the hallway for the principal’s office.

“Looking for principal’s office?” Ms. Frazzle asked. “I can take you there if you’d like.”

Shaun agreed and walked with her through the expansive hallway. Ms. Frazzle began to talk absentmindedly about her favorite students and why she loved teaching English. Shaun observed her quietly.

Something about her was bugging him. Ms. Frazzle was not his type, but even he could see that she was a beautiful woman. As his eyes traced over her form he noticed she was probably in her late twenties.

None of that was really important, though. There was something else he could sense from her. A feeling of a certain energy but he couldn’t quite place it. Unhuman? He wasn’t able to confirm his suspicions, however.

A loud crash was heard from around the hall stopping their conversation immediately.

“What was that?” Shaun asked.

“I have no idea,” Ms. Frazzle replied.

She started to move faster, heading toward the disturbance.

“It was one of the lockers. Come on, it sounded like a student fell.”

Shaun sighed to himself and let Selena lead the way. Turning the corner he saw Ms. Frazzle frozen in place looking at the scene before her. A group of six girls and their blonde leader were bullying the same young girl he saw from before. It seemed as if they were trying to take books from her backpack. Shaun resisted the urge to shake his head. He really didn’t want to get involved, at least not this soon.

“What are you doing!?” Ms. Frazzle asked.

The girls remained silent, They were caught red-handed. Shaun was curious to see what excuses they would have. The blonde girl, the leader of the posse began to stalk off.

Ms. Frazzle nearly grabbed her but stopped as the blonde girl turned around to look at her.

“You’re not going anywhere, young lady, you have explaining to do along with your friends. Why were you hurting that girl?”

“Me?” Ashley scowled. “I had nothing do with this. I wasn’t even next to her like them.”

Ashley pointed her index finger at the other girls. “They mess with Katherine here to please me since she doesn’t talk with us anymore. But I can care less. It’s not like I tell them to do it.”

“Hey!” Nicole said.

“Ashley!?” Lorie exclaimed.

The girls moaned in protest as Ashley threw them under the bus. She ignored them.

“No. You’re just here to encourage your little entourage, is that it?” Ms. Frazzle said.

“If you have a problem give me a write-up slip and send me the Principal. I should take full responsibility for those that are mine, no?”

Ashley stalked off without saying another word.

Shaun glanced at Ms. Frazzle with the side of his eyes. She frowned, her face flushing with anger, and yet it seemed as if she had let Ashley walk away. Was that fear he saw in Ms. Frazzle’s expression? Shaun turned his face to look back at where the blonde girl had been.

Ashley had looked familiar… Like a certain being from that place…

After a moment Shaun and Ms. Frazzle resumed walking through the hallway, both of them quiet.

They had finally reached the principal’s office. As they entered the room they were greeted by Principal Hardy, who was just getting off the phone.

“Ah, thank you Ms. Frazzle. I see you’ve acquainted yourself with Mr. Thompson. That’s good.” The Principal said. He turned to face Shaun. “And how are you finding everything? Ready for Monday?”

“Yes Sir,” Shaun replied.

Ms. Frazzle quietly excused herself as he continued his conversation with Mr. Hardy. Shaun glanced at Ms. Frazzle as she left, her eyes catching his own. She simply smiled at him as she left the room.

oOo

Selena Frazzle looked across the long stairway window viewing the campus grounds with a smile. She was watching the new physics teacher, Mr. Thompson, make his way back to the parking lot. He must have been done unpacking for the evening. They had just come from a meeting with the school principal after they witnessed the event earlier.

Selena didn’t bring up the situation with Ashley to principal Hardy, knowing that it would cause more problems than it was worth. However, she made sure to threaten the other bullies with suspension if they continued to harass that girl. She noted that Shaun also refrained from telling Mr. Hardy about what he witnessed.

Selena really had no reason to stay at school. She was unnecessarily waiting for an acquaintance, but she didn’t mind. Selena turned her head to the side as she was approached by her coworker.

“What are you doing standing here?” Mrs. Armstrong asked.

Selena smiled raising her hands up in defense. “Nothing really.”

Mrs. Armstrong looked over her shoulder out the window. She had seen who Selena was looking at.

“Right. So what do you think of him?”

“He seems pretty cute,” Selena said. She couldn’t hide anything from Mrs. Armstrong, but of course she never really cared to. “I don’t think he’s my type, though.”

“You seemed content staring at him for an hour.”

“Please, it wasn’t an hour, ” Selena said. She tilted her head, thinking. “Maybe I should try to seduce him?”

“Really, shitting where you eat?”

“Nah, only kidding,” Selena said with a laugh. “Speaking of which, aren’t you treating me out to dinner?”

“If you’re paying.”

“Oh come on.”

Selena walked down the stairs while finalizing her dinner plans with Mrs. Armstrong. She quickly took a glance at the school parking lot. Mr. Thompson’s car was finally gone. Selena smiled again to herself.

It looks like things are starting to get interesting.

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