Secrets 2.4

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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 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 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 sweat 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.

“Yup.”

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 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 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 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 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 for 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.

“Yup.”

“Why? Who gave you this job?”

“Dusk.”

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.”

“Excuse me?”

“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.

“True.”

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.

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Secrets 2.3

Previous Next

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 2.2

Previous  Next

Werewolves Tell No Tales

I hesitated, my mind going blank. “You want to speak with me?” I repeated, the quiet words tumbling out of my mouth, like the electrical impulses that controlled my speech were slow to reach my brain. I was like a device that had short-circuited. I wasn’t sure if she heard me. “Why?”

Shekhinah paused and regarded me for a second before exhaling. “I assumed that Kazuya would be here recovering after your sister took him from me two nights before. But, I cannot sense him,” Shekhinah glanced around the room, her eyes shifting from me to the entrance of our basement. Could she tell that Kazuya stayed there for the past two days? “Do you know where he is?”

I didn’t answer her right away; I was still feeling shell-shocked by the fact that she appeared in our house without any warning. With a tense grip, took hold of the knob to the door I had entered the house with and used it to help pull myself up from the floor. I stood up slowly and leaned against the door while attempting to keep balance. If I let go, now, I’d knew I’d fall over from the pressure. I looked Shekhinah in her golden eyes, they seemed cloudy. Lacking the fire and fierceness that they had given off the first time I met her.

I closed my eyes to distance myself. Shekhinah had asked if I knew where Kazuya was but she wasn’t forceful with her inquiry or demanding that I tell her his location. With a bit of effort, I pushed the thought of my impending death from Shekhinah’s hand out of my mind. Maybe Shekhinah wouldn’t hurt me. She seemed content to ask questions for now.

I opened my eyes and Shekhinah came back into view.  Her expression was unreadable, her lips thin. She hadn’t moved. She was patient, waiting for me to speak.

I swallowed as I found my voice. “I don’t know where he is,” I paused, glancing down and away from Shekhinah gaze as she remained still—her facial expression solid like stone. “He left last night without telling us anything. We didn’t even know he was gone until today.”

Shekhinah made a sound of clear annoyance. “Damn him,” she said, mostly to herself as she looked away.  Shekhinah sighed as she turned her head the direction of the living room window, taking her attention off of me. She was glancing out at the backyard, lost in contemplation. Shekhinah looked back at me, her eyes focused somewhat—as if she were searching my face for something. “Your sister isn’t with you,” she said, speaking like she was stating a simple fact.

I couldn’t look up to face her. It took every ounce of my resolve to ignore the warning blaring through my head, to keep from running out the garage door and getting the hell away from here. Breath. Calm down. Shekhinah didn’t do anything to me yet. She hadn’t moved at all since we had started talking. I had to calm down and stop freaking out. I had to think. If I didn’t keep myself together mentally, I’d collapse.

“S-she’s not here right now. She stayed after school.”

“I see.”

“Is… Kazuya the only reason you’re here?” I asked, my lips moving against my better judgment. “Why do you want to see him?”

“I need to speak to him.”

“So you can kill him and take revenge?” I asked. “For your students?”

Shekhinah glared at me. “That’s none of your concern.”

I was silent. My hand tightened on the doorknob as I stood my ground. “It’s been my concern ever since you and Kazuya pulled us into your battle that night. I almost died. If it wasn’t for Kazuya I wouldn’t be here right now. He saved my life.”

Shekhinah opened her mouth as if she were going to refute me, but after a moment she clamped it shut.

“He claimed you met us before,” I continued. “It was back when we were young, wasn’t it?” I rubbed my temple with a few fingers while closing my eyes in a painful grimace, visions of the past assaulting my mind. Pulsing through the sides of my skull, like a migraine. Images of Shekhinah with us, Mom, Dad, and Kazuya in that city of gold.  “I’ve been having these weird dreams and visions lately. In them, I see my dad as an Arcadian. Mom a Valterian. And I see you too, happy with Kazuya.”

Shekhinah gritted her teeth, her fists tightening as her body stiffened. “Then that vile fox has addled your mind, for you see nothing but lies!” she snapped. “He cannot be trusted. That treacherous fox does nothing but steal, kill, and cause destruction in his wake. He killed the ones important to me, without a second thought!”

I raised my hands in fear as she stepped closer to me, silently pleading for her to stop and calm down. “Look! I get it. I understand—no—I don’t. I-I can’t possibly understand what you’re going through. Losing the most important people to you,” Memories about my visions, the visions of a younger Tiffany and the seven other children I was close to in dragon king’s castle popped into my mind, piercing my brain—going straight through my skull and shocking me like a bolt of electricity. I winced, wavering for a moment. “I… I don’t think I could bear something like that.”

Shekhinah offered no response.

“But,” I said, after swallowing and catching my breath. “If Kazuya was wrong, If you truly hate him so much, why didn’t didn’t you kill him and get rid of us back then? You haven’t even denied what he said yet. That you had come in contact with us before.”

Shekhinah stared at me.

“You told us that killing him wouldn’t bring your subordinates back,” I tensed as I saw Shekhinah become furious, the aura of energy surrounding her rising like a torrent of water in the rapids. “Did you really mean that?”

Shekhinah hesitated, the waves of her energy and anger weakening.

“Shekhinah,” I whispered. “Who are you, really?”

We were both startled by the sound of the garage door opening from the outside. Metal hinges twisted and moved along worn metal rollers. The sounds from the outside door lasted a few seconds before it stopped. I could hear my mother drive her car inside. My parents were back. Shekhinah must’ve known something was up too, with the way she looked at the door I was standing near.

Shekhinah inspected me. “If we are fated to meet again,” she declared, “I will tell you everything.”

Shekhinah gave me a small smile as the aura surrounding her golden armor brightened.  I closed my eyes from the glare. I opened them and peered at the place Shekhinah was standing just seconds before. She had vanished.

I was baffled; my body was stiff, still standing in the same place when my dad opened the door and came into the house while mom followed suit.

“Hi,” I said, moving out of the way while my parents entered through the door together.

‘Hi,” my mom said beaming at me like I was a joy to see.

“Hey, Mercy. How are you?” my dad asked.

“Fine.”

“Anything interesting go on at school today?”

Well, not in school.

“Not really,” I said.

For a millisecond I considered whether I should ask Mom and Dad about my visions. To ask if they were gods. I decided against it. I didn’t want to talk to them about what happened that Friday night. Nor did I want to explain Kazuya’s or Shekhinah’s visit to our house. I didn’t want to put that all on the table.

“Where is your sister?” my mom asked.

My eyelids shut tight as I anticipated my parent’s outrage. “She’s still at school. She stayed with Terra because he was given detention.”

Dad’s lips thinned, displeased, and Mom brow furrowed. She folded her arms, furious.

“What are we going to do with that girl?” Mom growled, expressing herself to my dad.

Dad put his briefcase down next to the kitchen table. He started to take off his coat. “We’ll discuss that when she comes home,” Dad looked at me. “Did you have anything to do with her staying?”

“No,” I shook my head. “She chose to stay there. I warned her.”

Dad examined me for a moment but I didn’t offer anything else. He grabbed his coat from the chair he had placed it on and walked to the hallway closet. Mom did the same.

“What do you want for dinner, Mercy?” Mom asked in a calmer voice, her annoyance at Tiffany’s disobedience gone. She glanced at me as she hung up her coat. “Steak and pasta or chicken and rice?”

“We haven’t had rice in a while,” I said.

“Is that what you want?”

“Yeah, chicken and rice is good.”

“I bought asparagus Saturday.”

Mmm. One of the only vegetables I actually liked eating. “Awesome, do you need me to make anything?”

I recalled my mom talking about making a cornbread dish last weekend. I could do that for her.

“No. It’s fine.” my mother said. “Don’t you have homework to do?”

“It wouldn’t take that long.”

“Homework first,” she ordered.

I stopped myself from rolling my eyes in protest but my lips lifted around the edges. “Fine.”

My parents eventually made their way upstairs to take off their work clothes and slip into something more relaxing. I took a moment to sit on the living room couch to decompress a bit. I glanced at the remote that was resting on the small table next to me. I was still banned from watching TV.  I pulled my cell phone out of my backpack and began to check it for new text messages. It wouldn’t hurt to check now. Dad would ask for my phone back soon, considering how taking our phones away was a part of our punishment.

Most of the new texts I had were from friends or teammates. Tiffany hadn’t sent anything. The house door that led to the garage opened with a soft creak, causing me to perk up. Tiffany sneaked inside the house without a sound, she took her time to close the door. After she locked it, she tiptoed through the kitchen—her steps light. She moved closer to me, her shoulders taut with tension as she observed the kitchen and living room with care, attempting to avoid detection. Tiffany nearly jumped out of her skin as she found me sprawled out all over the couch like a homeless moocher. I surprised her. Tiffany actively relaxed as she realized it was me. She exhaled in relief.

“Hey,” she said.

“Heya, partner.”

Tiffany did her usual slight tilt of the head while giving me her ‘are you serious’ look, her hands placed on her hips. I tried my best to feign a look of innocence. Tiffany sniffed before resuming a normal and relaxed posture.

“Did you cover for me?” Tiffany asked.

“Nope.”

“Huh?”

“I told them the truth.”

“What?” Tiffany’s mouth dropped open as if she wondered how I could have said such thing. Apparently, I had betrayed her trust. “Why the hell would you do that?”

I shrugged. “What else was I supposed to do?”

“Uh—not tell them the truth? You could have said I was in my room or something.”

“Yeah, but you weren’t and I had no idea when you’d be home. They would have noticed eventually. If you’d come home a few seconds later, Dad would be sitting here watching TV and Mom would be in the kitchen. I told you it would be bad news if they got home early. You said you could handle it.”

“Tiffany,” Mom called from upstairs before my sister could respond. “Mercy, is your sister home? Tell her to come upstairs.”

Tiffany grimaced. I empathized with my sister, my stomach coiling into a knot of anxiety, knowing that she would get a stern talking-to. We couldn’t fool Mom. Whenever we found ourselves in the act of doing something we knew when shouldn’t be doing, our mom’s sense of hearing always seemed uncanny.

“Pray for me,” Tiffany said quietly, as she took a seat on my lap—causing me to let out a choked grunt of surprise. She buried her head into my shoulder. My arms traveled around her back, holding her in a light embrace so she wouldn’t fall off of me.  She looked up at me, then she tilted her head back to view my face better. “On second thought,” she said, with her hands touching the back of the couch—my head in between the middle of her reaching arms, “Don’t do that. I can’t even trust you to cover for me right. If you pray to those gods you’ve been seeing in those dreams of yours, I’d probably die faster.”

My eyes narrowed as I gave her a sardonic smile. “Do you prefer that or prefer having Mom and Dad kill you? Trying to merge yourself with me isn’t going to work,” I snarked, pondering whether I should push Tiffany off my lap.

“Tiffany!” Mother called, louder.

Tiffany cursed and rolled her eyes; she let go of me. As she stood up, I spoke.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be. I should have been back earlier.”

I glanced toward some of the kitchen windows. “Yeah. But something came up. Before the ‘rents came back.”

“What happened?”

I looked back at Tiffany who seemed intent on waiting for me to explain. Doing that would take a while and keeping her here would only make our mom angrier. Making things worse for both of us.

“Go talk to Mom. I’ll tell you later.”

Tiffany frowned but she didn’t complain. She turned away from me and made her way upstairs to our parent’s room to face the music. It sucked that she had to get yelled at, but at least she wasn’t grounded for another week. Missing two weeks of practice may have gotten her kicked off the soccer team. After dinner, I told her about Shekhinah’s abrupt appearance in our house. Tiffany was as freaked out about it as I was, but she also was averse to telling our mom and dad.  Shekhinah was a god who could level our house with the wave of a hand and she could appear in the middle of home whenever she felt like it. I wasn’t so sure about keeping that fact a secret from our parents. Nevertheless, the rest of our night was peaceful enough.

oOo

The next day at school was pretty normal. As normal as you could get at Franklin High, at least. Homeroom had just finished and I was the second to last person to leave class as I was late in packing up my books. Nathan Blackwood approached me, his visage careful and patient. We’d often walk to second-period together since we were in the same class. He was a good friend. Someone I enjoyed talking too when I had the chance.

Terra, who was unironically Nathan’s best friend, had left homeroom before us for some reason. Normally he would walk with us to Algebra II even though his second class was on the opposite side of the building. Terra could care less if he was late his Spanish class. I was pretty sure he liked it but his Spanish teacher, Ms. Lopez, had a soft spot for him—something that he was sure to take advantage of. I wondered why he didn’t walk with us today. Maybe Ms. Lopez actually threatened him with detention for once.

“Finished your Algebra II homework?” Nathan asked.

I gave him a warm smile before standing up, my backpack in hand. “Mm-hmm. Finally! Man, he gives way to much homework. What’s the point of learning all this stuff? Functions? Graphing linear equations? We’re not even gonna use this crap real life.”

“Just wait until we get into pre-cal.”

I leaned my head back in aggravation, over-exaggerating the motion a little. “Oh my gosh, don’t even talk to me about that. I don’t know if I’m gonna survive this.”

Nathan smirked. “Mr. Nelson does give a lot of homework.”

“Too much. And I still have to start working on that essay Ms. Frazzle gave us.”

Nathan and I continued to talk as we exited the classroom. We said goodbye to Ms. Frazzle, our English and homeroom teacher, who was standing by the door the way out. She was preoccupied with observing people as they passed through the hallway, making sure students didn’t violate the dress code, no doubt. Or maybe she was checking that her students came to class on time.  As we left Ms. Frazzle’s class, some of her second-period students trickled into the English classroom. It would be full within ten minutes or so.

“So…” Nathan said as we traversed through the crowded halls. “Have you seen Katherine around? I don’t think she was in first-period today.”

I inhaled deeply, stifling a sigh. “No, I don’t think she was.”

“Hmm. I thought I saw her earlier. Isn’t your locker close to her’s?”

A familiar undercurrent of irritation started to course through my veins, entering the center of my body. It made me feel like I was burning from the inside out. How long would he continue to bring up Katherine in our conversations? If Nathan cared about Katherine so much he could go find her by himself. He didn’t need me for that.

“I don’t really talk to her anymore. You know that.”

“Yeah, I know that,” Nathan said, his gaze cautious. “I don’t know why, though.”

“I just don’t. Don’t be annoying. You’re always so nosy.”

“My bad. I wanted to see her so I could find out if she’s available for tutoring today.”

I glanced at Nathan with renewed interest. “She’s a part of the tutoring center?”

“Nah. Way too skittish for that. You know how she is. Katherine isn’t a people person.”

I huffed. “Yeah,” I paused before facing Nathan’s direction. “I’m surprised she’s helping you.”

Nathan chuckled. “Yup, me too. I didn’t expect her to agree but I knew she was smart so I was like fuck it, what’s the harm in asking? It’s cool. I think she could use someone to talk to considering everything that’s been happening to her lately.” Nathan turned to me so he could analyze my reaction to his words.

That nasty feeling in my stomach returned and I looked away. “What class is she helping you with?”

“Physics.”

“Ugh. That sounds rough,” I said. “Wait. Do you have the new physics teacher?”

“Mr. Thompson? Yeah. He’s cool.”

“I heard he was pretty attractive,” I murmured to myself, causing Nathan to shake his head. “How’s that working out for you?”

“Honestly, I’m in way over my head. Without Katherine, I wouldn’t be able to survive in that class. I’d die. Like literally die. That’s how hard that shit is. She’s saving my life right now. ”

“Why did you take such a hard requirement?”

“Eh,” Nathan shrugged. “Wanted to do something I haven’t learned about before. Oh, that reminds me. I also wanted to invite Katherine to the AMCVG after school.”

“Ah, that?” I asked. The anime, manga, comic book, video game, and movie club. A small student-created organization that Nathan was a proud member of. I had learned from Nathan that the AMCVG would at least meet once a week to play games, watch anime, or discuss other various hobbies for us nerdy folk. It seemed intriguing enough. I never really had the time to join, being a part of the soccer team and all.

“Yes, that,” Nathan said giving me a smirk. “Do you actually wanna join now that you have been banished from fields of elite foot swinging warriors?”

I looked at Nathan like he had grown a second head. “No. Don’t do that. Please don’t. Christ, you’re such a dork.”

“Don’t hate, baby-girl,” he said, not caring in about my judgment in the least. “You know I’m irresistible.”

“Yeah—okay, super-fly,” I said while tapping him on the shoulder, feigning pity. Though he would sometimes act dorky, Nathan was always amusing when he attempted to make me laugh. “You know I can’t stay after school. My parents banned me and Tiff from all extracurriculars this week. Didn’t Terra tell you?”

“Yup,” Nathan said, not missing a beat. “It’s a real shame. You could have been one of us, you know. With us nerds, your true people.”

I snorted at that.

“You know that we are your true calling,” Nathan said. “When you’re done abusing people’s balls with your feet, realize that we will always welcome you with open arms. Or open legs if you prefer.”

I glared at him. It wasn’t a serious glare, but it wasn’t a light one either.

Nathan laughed. “Alright, I’ll stop.”

I sighed. “Thank you.”

“It really sucks though, you’d love it,” Nathan said. “Isn’t that why you’re taking Japanese—to read all that untranslated manga you look at?”

I hummed while thinking about the oral presentation I had to give in my Japanese II class. “I guess that was the original reason.”

Our talking died down. We walked in comfortable silence. Normally, having dead spaces in conversation with a boy I wasn’t super close to would make me anxious, but I felt relaxed around Nathan. He was cool like that. I waved in greeting to a couple of other classmates that walked by. We would arrive at our second class soon.

“You should talk to Katherine,” Nathan said at once. “You should see how she looks at you sometimes in English.”

Like I hadn’t noticed?

“Look. I’m not her friend. I don’t talk to her. Stop bringing it up.”

“What are you even worried about?” Nathan countered. “None of the other girls that hang around Ashley are in our English class.”

“Diana is,” I said, “but it’s not like she would tell on me.”

“Ms. Frazzle’s class is like a safe haven,” Nathan said.

“True. But even if everyone was in our English class, Ms. Frazzle wouldn’t let them get away with bullying Katherine.”

“Mm-hmm,” Nathan said. “So what’s the problem? Why don’t you want to talk to Katherine? I thought she was your best friend.”

“Best friend? That’s kinda stretching it.”

“To her you were.”

I closed my eyes with a frown. “Of course, I was.” I must have been the only girl she talked to. I looked away from Nathan’s brown eyes, feeling uneasy about his forcefulness. “I feel a little guilty about it.”

“About what? You don’t pick on her.”

“That’s not it. I cut her off so I wouldn’t have any problems with the rest of the girls.” I bit my lip. “I can’t face her now.”

“Honestly, I don’t think Ashley really cares if you talk to her or not. I’m sure Katherine would understand why you stopped talking to her if you explained yourself, how bad you feel about hurting her.”

“Hmm, yeah,” I said, giving Nathan a casual response. “But Ashley isn’t the person I’m worried about.”

“No. You’re worried about Rika.”

I shrugged, not saying anything else. Rika could be hard to deal with but I didn’t feel like talking to Nathan about her right now.

After a few more steps, we entered our large Algebra II classroom. Nathan and I talked a little bit more before taking our assigned seats. The classroom filled up within a few minutes; the class quieted down as Mr. Nelson walked to the board and asked for the previous night’s homework. I pulled out a binder from my bag and retrieved the homework assignment I had put the finishing touches on in homeroom before our teacher began his lesson. I also took out a spiral notebook and two mechanical pencils, readying myself for an extensive hour of notetaking. After thirty minutes or so of mindless copying from the board, I excused myself from class so I could go use the restroom. Only a few more minutes before lunch, but I was getting tired of working on math and I didn’t feel like holding it in anymore.

I walked to the restroom at the end of the hallway but before I made it halfway there, something caught my eye. I saw Terra on the stairway adjacent to the restroom, talking to a hooded figure—the person was wearing a dark full-body cloak. Huh. That was different. Noticing my approach, Terra nodded at his hooded acquaintance before leaving the step he was perched upon and turning the corner. The hooded figure went after him.

Hmm.

Instead of using the restroom I followed them. I wasn’t sure why Terra urged the hooded figure to follow him after he noticed me. Suspicious. Did he not think I’d pursue him? I made my way around the corner. I blinked. They were gone. The wide corridor was empty like they weren’t even there. Whatever Terra was up to, he didn’t want me knowing about it.

Well, I was going to find out about it now. I spent some time ambling around the empty corridors, looking any hint of Terra or the cloaked person he was talking to. I hoped that wouldn’t come across any teachers. They’d probably want to know why I was strolling around the school like I had nothing better to do instead of being in class.

Where could they have gone? I considered the some of the places around the school Terra liked to go when he wanted to hang out with people in secret. Ah. The rooftop. Students were forbidden being on the school roof but that wouldn’t stop Terra from bringing people up there when he felt like it. I remembered how Tiffany and I had chilled with him there toward the end of last year when most teachers started to become lax with attendance. When school was almost over and there was nothing to do in class. I was pretty sure Terra and Tiffany had used that place to mess around more times than that though. Terra was notorious for skipping classes he didn’t like and he’d sometimes he would bring Tiffany with him when he did.

I was moving fast, so it didn’t take me long to reach the third floor. I looked both ways in next hallway to make sure the coast was clear before making a quick stride to the final staircase. I was careful as I climbed the steps, feeling a bit nervous. If Terra had gone to the roof to get away from me, I wonder how he would react once he found out that I followed him. I opened the door at the end of the staircase with a gentle twist, the golden doorknob making the sound of a sharp click. A slight squeak caressed my ears as I pulled, opening the door wide. I paused for a moment as I looked at the emptiness of the school roof. This was just the front of the roof, what you could see from the doorway entrance; I needed to check the back area as well.

I trod the side of the roof entrance with care, sticking to the wall before glancing around the edge to view the other side of the rooftop. There they were—Terra and the mysterious hooded figure, who was standing right in front of him. There was a substantial height difference between the two of them. The hooded figure was huge. Much taller than Terra. Had to be over six feet.

Terra moved, snapping his head around to look my direction. I was fortunate; I was able to hide behind the wall before he saw me. I waited before resuming my previous position at the edge of doorway area. I peeked around the corner of the wall as the hooded figure started to talk.

“It’s been a while,” The hooded man said. His voice sounded gruff, almost feral.

“It has been,” Terra agreed.

Who in the world was Terra talking to? I covered my mouth with a hand to stop from crying out in shock as the cloaked man removed his hood with clawed and furred hands, revealing the face of a wolf.  The man was a werewolf! He had long wolf-like ears attached to the sides of his head and harsh blue eyes as dark as the ocean depths. Razor-sharp teeth extruding from his maw. His cool gray fur, striking.

“How long will it take you to complete your mission?” the werewolf growled.

“Oris, my man,” Terra said, calm like he was speaking to an old friend, “Relax.”

Oris grunted. “Relaxation is the only thing you’re good at. Should I tell Trinity that you’re slacking?”

Terra paused. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking—his back was turned to me and there was a considerable distance between me and the two of them.

“It’s unusual to see you out in the open like this, Oris,” Terra said, ignoring Oris’s previous question. “Not really befitting of an assassin.”

A what?

A low growl rumbled in Oris’s throat. “I won’t be out for long. I’m just here to give you a little kick in the ass.”

Terra made a sound of disapproval before folding his arms. “You gonna fight me? Here?”

“No. Just give you a warning. Get yourself in gear,” Oris commanded. “Kill Nathan Blackwood, or I’ll do it for 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 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 in 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 said 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 of 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 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 telling the 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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