Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 9: Kendrick

Session One

Monroe- you had the insolence to attack me once, but will you have the class to do it again face-to-face? Sempman- you may think attacking a student is unjust, but is interrupting a duel any better? You both shall have the chance to prove yourselves. Now that your lessons are behind you, I suggest you watch your backs.

Sincerely yours,

After reading the message, Troy reached for the dark purple hilt.

“Don't touch it,” Kurt said, “They're still investigating. We're not even supposed to be here right now.”

“What, they don't want us to see him making death threats at us?”

Trying to display some sort of control, Kurt replied, “It's not a death threat. It's just... a threat. He wants to scare us into a fight. If he really meant business, he'd do more than this.”

The statement didn't calm Troy down, but it did make him realize something. “I'm surprised it didn't. All these gas canisters, blowtorches, pressurized air... with everything in here, how come the whole school didn't blow up?”

“Magic,” Molly said from behind them. Troy and Kurt, already on-edge, jumped as they saw Molly surveying the wreckage.

“It wouldn't take a demon to start a fire with all this junk,” she explained, sneering at the puddle of brake fluid she had just stepped in. “Instead, he used magic to keep any fire away from the seriously flammable materials.”

“What does the MST think of it?” Kurt asked.

“Not much. They have the power to contact me telepathically, yet they found it more prudent just to leave a voice mail.” Molly looked over at the note. “They're likely dismissing this as a mere scare tactic.”

“What, they don't think he's serious?” Troy cried. “He put a dagger through the wall! What makes them think he doesn't mean it?”

Molly answered coolly, “He's a Hokoni. He knows better.”

“What does that mean?”

After a heavy sigh, Molly explained the basics. But let's go a little deeper: the Hokoni were one of the eight factions of demonkind. Each faction had their own creeds, rules and tendencies. Since the MST kept a close eye on magic use on Earth, most used semi-legitimate operations to both generate resources and corrupt humans toward their sinister ideals. The Hokoni, for example, lived under a code of self-importance and bigotry. Therefore, they profited by promoting such misdeeds as religious intolerance, extreme nationalism and riots between rival soccer fanatics.

The one common ground between every faction was their natural hatred of the MST. While the forces of good and evil tend to remain about equal, evil was so divided that the MST had a tremendous advantage over any single faction. This meant that each group had to tread lightly when dealing with the Taskforce. Thus, they limited their magic influence on Earth and tried their best not to provoke the MST. Targeting MST students was not good politics.

Of course, some factions were willing to take more chances in this department out of strategy or temperament. While normally a stupid move, some have recognized that there were exceptions. The Hokoni, however, were not one of these factions. As focused as they were at holding themselves superior, they refused to denigrate themselves by sniping newbies. God forbid they be made to look petty.

Kurt knew all this, of course, which only made Kendrick's actions all the more frightening. “I know Hokoni are good about leaving students alone, but they usually don't do all this stuff either.”

“This is nothing,” Molly said, glancing up at the symbol on the ceiling. “This is letting off some steam after you two embarrassed him. The Hokoni can't afford a scandal like him going after you.” She turned to Kurt. “They're working a lot of different places right now, and spread very thin. But they have caused trouble and they know they're a prime target for the MST right now. The Hokoni are in too precarious a spot to make any move against us.”

His mouth hanging open a little, Kurt stared back, totally blown away. “Wow, you really stay up on your demons. I didn't know guardians were so concerned with all that.”

Molly looked away, right at the dagger. The confidence she had shown when explaining the Hokoni vanished. “They're not. It's a...” She stopped, hesitated, then cleared her throat while mumbling, “Subject of interest for me.”

Kurt fell silent. Troy wasn't sure what to say. He couldn't comprehend much of her analysis, but got the general impression that circumstances meant he and Kurt were theoretically safe. Somehow this didn't comfort him.

Before he could voice his lack of faith in a political security blanket, Donovan popped in and pointed an accusing finger at Troy. “You!” he shouted, “You vandalized my dark room!”

It all happened so quickly, Troy didn't have time to deliver a coherent response. Kurt did: “Wait, what??”

Molly was not surprised. “Yes, he also hit Donovan's club room. The message I got from the MST mentioned that in passing.”

“How bad is it?”

“I didn't check. I don't like going in there.”

“Hmm.” Kurt frowned. “Guess I'll have a look then.”

As Kurt lifted his hand and teleported to the second crime scene, Donovan continued to pursue Troy. Troy backpedaled, but cornered himself between a tool chest that had been fused-shut and a lump of metal that used to be an engine hood. Donovan sneered and fired his newly-acquired energy ball attack. It bounced off Troy's chest, fell and dissolved instantly in a pool of motor oil.

“Ow,” Troy said, more annoyed than injured.

“Quit it,” Molly barked. She stood there sulking until Kurt returned.

The situation in the dark room was similar, but as it had fewer flammable materials, everything got a good toasting. Unknown arcane symbols joined the significant smoke damage on the walls, glowing an eerie white in the darkness.

“Actually, I think it's an improvement,” Kurt added.

“That is not the point,” Donovan replied, turning his head.

“No, the point is that regardless of whether or not Kendrick plans to follow up on this, we all need to be careful,” Molly said, making sure to look both Troy and Donovan in the eyes. “Make sure both Kurt and I know about anything suspicious, and if Kendrick does show up- do not engage him. Kurt will teach you two some self-defense spells just in case.”

Kurt didn't remember volunteering for that job, but he had no reason to protest. After all, this was why he was here in the first place. Though the thought stuck with him for the next few days: of all the freshman units in the world, how did the one that was actually under fire receive help so far in advance?


Session Two

For a month, Troy did not leave his house, believing it to be the only place where he could be truly safe from Kendrick. About two weeks in, Kurt convinced Molly to put a ward up to actually make it so. Kurt and Kathryn would stop by once in a while to keep him company, but Troy refused to venture into the unprotected wilderness to catch a movie or anything. His mother considered this perfectly normal summer behavior for an unemployed high school kid.

He still had to go to school though. To make matters worse, he still had to walk since he couldn't coax his mother into giving him a ride. Worse still, Kathryn reneged on her agreement to walk with him due to a surprise team meeting (she couldn't remember which sport). So when the new year began on the last Wednesday in August, Troy walked the streets of L. B. Gould, Ohio alone. Or at least he hoped he was alone.

Troy hadn't lost sight of his house for five minutes when he felt the tickling sensation of two eyes on him, treading a path up and down his body marked by hairs standing on end. He glanced over his shoulder- nothing. Troy picked up his pace, speed-walking across an intersection. As he reached the other side of the street, he heard a rustling in the bushes and stupidly froze.

“Who is it?” he asked them. They rustled again, but he did not speak bush. All he could translate was that it was somebody or something. His steeled his right arm at his side, ready to go into his trigger at a moment's notice. He called out again; the bushes rustled again.

This time, he heard a loud sigh. Claude popped up and pulled a pair of binoculars away from his face. He stared at Troy unhappily and said, “You know, it would be much easier to spy on you if you would stop being so damn paranoid.”

Troy closed his eyes and relaxed his arm. It was only Claude making sure he didn't try any funny business with Renee. As if he would; he had all the chances he ever needed at the academy and did nothing. Troy took a deep breath. “Hi, Claude. How was your summer?”

Claude yawned. “It would have been much more interesting if you would have left the house once in a while.”


So Troy, Renee, Kathryn and Donovan were sophomores now. Molly was a junior, but for all intents and purposes she carried no title other than 'Ma'am.' Kurt was thrilled to call himself a senior, and equally thrilled that Kathryn was no longer a freshman and thus fair game for upperclassmen.

The joy over their promotions subsided approximately thirty minutes into class when they all realized that it was still high school and they still had to put up with the same idiot teachers, classes and classmates. Except for Molly, who remained immune to all three.

Renee didn't mind so much. She had gotten this whole school thing down pat long ago and looked forward to another successful year. Hiding in the back row during her homeroom period, she propped a textbook up and rested her head behind it, determined to make up the hours of sleep missed playing video games the night before. Murmurs resounded throughout the classroom, but Renee ignored them. If anything, a disruption made it easier for her to get away with dozing off.

One particular murmur, however got her attention: “How old do you think she is?” Curiosity piqued, Renee now had to at least see whom they were talking about. She poked her head at the front of the room, saw the subject, and hid behind the book again. Suddenly, she was wide awake.

The only eyes on Yuki that mattered were the teacher's. Bowing slightly and with two hands, Yuki delivered a note to him. He took it hesitantly and read it to himself: “This is a new transfer student named Yuki. Please admit her into your class. Do not ask any questions or the entire school will learn what you and Mrs. Cohen were up to this summer. Sincerely, Molly Pearson.”

The teacher narrowed an eyebrow at Yuki. “Do I know Mrs. Cohen?”

Yuki gasped. “Wait... what's your name?”

“Mr. Gordon.”

“Sorry, wrong note!” She took the note back and pulled six identical ones out of her bag, each bearing the name of a different teacher. His appeared soon enough. “Here we go!”

Sweating, Mr. Gordon hurriedly said, “That's all right, Yuki! Why don't you have a seat?”

“Okay,” Yuki replied, returning the notes to her bag. “Should I introduce myself to the class?”

“No, just sit down in back and try not to draw attention.”

Yuki did, bopping quietly to an empty desk in the back, ignoring the stares. She sat down, turned to her next-desk neighbor and recognized her immediately. “Oh, hi Renee! You're in this homeroom too?”

Suddenly extremely tired again, Renee lifted her head up and turned it towards Yuki. The supposed prodigy looked chipper as ever. Renee blinked and asked, “Why are you here?”

Yuki smiled. “Well, all units are supposed to stick together, so sending me here as a transfer student seemed like the best choice. Besides, I heard about Kendrick. If something happens, now I'll be able to help out!”

Renee nodded. “That's doubtful. So are you really smart enough to be skipped ahead to high school?”

“They told Molly to make sure it didn't matter.”

“Ah,” Renee said. That needed no explanation. She buried her head on her desk, tried to forget about Yuki and nodded off once more.


Session Three

At lunch, Troy paid little attention to whatever Kathryn was talking about and stared unhappily at Claude. As Claude was under strict orders to keep his eyes on Troy, it made Claude quite uncomfortable as a result. Troy didn't care. Claude's presence symbolized two things. First, Troy was not only the possible target of a renegade demon out for revenge, but that he would be followed full-time by someone who didn't give a damn. Second was that he somehow failed to recognize his opportunity to get closer to Renee at the academy.

“Takes a while to get used to Claude again, huh?” Kathryn asked, glancing at the spy. “Want me to shake him for you?”

“Don't bother,” Troy said with a heavy sigh. “He was out of our hair for three weeks and I didn't do anything then.”

Kathryn chuckled. “I was wondering about that. You two could have going at it in the FUP all that time. I was going to say something, but it's not like you ignored her.”

“I didn't even bring it up. We talked to each other, but it was so... normal.” Troy shook his head. “I guess I was so distracted by everything else at the academy that I didn't notice.” Scoffing, he added, “Hardly a testament to my eternal love.”

“Well, if you're still hung up on Renee, there's always the next term.” Kathryn paused and withstood the urge to grumble; the next term was in January and she was already bemoaning the idea of missing basketball games. “But if you went three weeks in her presence without even thinking about it, maybe you should explore other options.”

“Other... options?” Troy didn't know what she meant, but knew he wouldn't like whatever she was getting at. Kathryn smiled, making Troy even more nervous.

“Follow me,” she said. Troy obeyed, but secretly hoped Kendrick would interrupt things with a murderous rampage.

Instead, she took him to the freshman hallway, now just a noisy, cramped reminder of their harrowing first year. Troy typically went out of his way to avoid it between classes. Yet Kathryn led him right back into the pit.

She shook her head in disgust. “Look at these kids. Bottom of the totem pole. Helpless minnows waiting to be devoured. Juniors and seniors don't even bother.”

“This was us three months ago,” Troy said, flatly.

“No kidding. Do you know how many upperclassmen asked me out today?

“Kurt said his class had a countdown clock for you and everything,” said Troy

She smiled. “Heh. I feel kinda honored. But anyway, if the big fish don't want them, they're yours for the taking. Pick one.”

“What do you mean, pick one?” Troy knew exactly what she meant, but it was so frank and sudden that it warranted clarification.

“Which one do you want? It doesn't matter. I just want to show you something.”

Troy shook his head, but played along. Of the dozen or so girls in the hallway, he remembered half of them from junior high and disliked them all. He didn't bother analyzing the rest; the first one that caught his eye appeared harmless enough. She was alone at her locker, checking her hair with some degree of disapproval, as if the style was exactly what she signed up for but that the swept-back style didn't look quite as good on her as it did in the flier. She threw a couple bangs across her forehead and shrugged with diminished appeasement.

“How about her?” Troy said, pointing.

Kathryn stared at her. While the emergency hairstyle change improved her look some, the girl was hardly a knockout. Somewhere in the middle perhaps- a perfect five in a hallway bearing sevens and eights. “Eh, not who I would of picked.”

“Well, yeah. You're a girl.”

“So I've been told,” Kathryn muttered. “Whatever. I guess she's kinda cute in a plain sort of way. Go ask her out.”

Troy was half-expecting it, but freaked out anyway. “What?! I don't know anything about her!”

“Perfect. Good luck.” With those final words, Kathryn shoved Troy towards the target. Or rather headfirst into the locker next to the target.

The collision startled the girl, throwing her hair out of alignment. She didn't look any worse, however. In fact, once Troy peeled himself off the locker and saw her up close, she was more than adequately cute. Her face was small, but so were her eyes, nose and mouth to keep proportion. The strands of light brown hair that had jumped ship and gone overboard actually offered vital cover to her forehead.

Of course, having just witnessed someone crash into a locker, her face was one of trepidation. She stared up at him and, obligated to say something to break the tension, went with, “Do I even want to know?”

“No,” Troy replied. He looked over at Kathryn, but she had vanished. Troy apologized and turned back to the girl, who had already resumed playing with her hair.

For a second, it looked like the window of opportunity using the old 'crash into locker' ice-breaker had already shut. But then she smiled and said, “No problem. A few few feet to the right and we would have had a problem.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Troy sighed. As he doubted that he could draw humor from crashing into her instead of the locker, he looked for, and found, a transition. “Say, I don't remember seeing you before. I would have thought that in junior high-”

“I'm new here,” she answered, cutting him off. She faced him and frowned. “My family moved here last week.”

“Where from?”

“Washington.” Troy opened his mouth to ask the obvious follow-up, but she answered “DC” before he could get it out.

He laughed. She smiled- a faint smile, but with a hint of playfulness. “I've been getting that all day. And my name's Marie.”

“I'm Troy.” Marie nodded, forgot her smile, and turned back to the mirror in her locker. Normally, this would be the part where Troy would say 'I'll see you around' and Marie would say 'yep' and they'd never talk to each other again. But since he was already in conversation, he figured he might as well do as Kathryn had instructed.

As he wasn't completely passionate about the idea, this was the best he could come up with: “You know, if you're new here, I can show you around town or something if you want.”

“I already found the basics. What else is there?” Marie shot back.

She had him there; L. B. Gould had all of the essentials of a population center with none of the frills. “Uh... stuff,” Troy said, trying not to laugh at the absurdity.

Yet Marie cocked an eyebrow and smiled at him. “What, like restaurants and movie theaters?”

Troy's mouth hung open. She saw right through him, and would have been humiliated beyond belief had he any emotional investment in the conversation. In fact, because he didn't he was greatly amused by the sequence, which showed on his face. Going with it, he shrugged and replied, “If that's what you're into, sure.”

Marie stared back at him for what seemed like minutes. Troy waited impatiently for her to politely decline so he could burst out laughing. Instead, she said, “Sure, sounds good.”

His smile sunk and suddenly he felt his stomach twist. Marie didn't notice; she was already reaching for her cell phone. “What's your number?” she asked.

Troy mumbled seven digits that he was fairly sure comprised his cell number. He wasn't sure, however- not only had his mind entered 'what the hell just happened' mode and shut down... he rarely called himself. Marie entered the numbers into her own phone. Just as she did, his phone rang.

He answered it with a neutral, “Hello?” as if it could have been anybody.

Marie's smile widened. “And now you have mine.” She snapped her phone shut, slammed her locker door closed, and shuffled away. All that remained open was Troy's mouth.


Session Four

If nothing else, the successful come-on distracted Troy enough to keep him from focusing on Kendrick 24/7. Still, between that and finding out about Yuki, Troy wondered if he had slipped into a frightening parallel universe during his self-imposed house arrest- not an uncommon thought in that part of Ohio. Either way, while Kendrick was still his biggest problem, it was now no longer his only problem. This was a good thing, as worrying about dating and an annoying eleven-year-old classmate was a nice chance of pace over worrying about a demon trying to kill you.

Not that Kendrick would take such a slight laying down. Things were only peaceful in L. B. Gould, Ohio for another two days.

When we say peaceful, of course, we ignore whatever Donovan does. He too was affected by Kendrick's acts of terror and began a special training regimen every afternoon. And when we say special training regimen, we mean finding a quiet spot outside of town and attacking a tree with his energy ball until it fell over. Donovan had been doing this for weeks, yet the tree continued to elude and outsmart him.

After half an hour on that fateful Friday, Donovan promised himself one more try before retreating to continue the fight another day. He brought his hands around, created a ball of darkness and heaved it forward only to watch it bounce harmlessly off the tree once more. Then a second ball whizzed by him and obliterated the tree with a massive explosion.

“Hello, Donovan,” Kendrick said, nodding his head politely. “Impressive, don't you think?”

Donovan glowered. “I was merely practicing my aim.”

Kendrick shook his head. He had been watching Donovan frustrate himself for the last fifteen minutes and had even heard Donovan verbally command the tree to fall down. “No need to be ashamed, Donovan. I understand that the academy won't teach you how to create a destructive force for several years. But if you'd like to know, I'm more than willing to offer some pointers.”

“And who might you be?”

After suppressing his urge to kill Donovan then and there, Kendrick stewed for a moment, then responded, “Kendrick. As I told you last time after we were interrupted, I would drop by after your first academy term to see if you would consider joining me.”

Donovan had no reaction. Kendrick waited for one, but realized it would be futile to hold out and continued, “If you do, you will be able to create destruction at your whim. You will have the power you so crave. Now I may perhaps ask you to use that power to kill some of your classmates, but will you really miss Troy Monroe?”

Still not saying anything, Donovan paced toward the felled tree. He stopped a yard in front of it and turned around. He clenched his eyebrows, looked Kendrick in the eyes, and said, “You destroyed my dark room.”

Kendrick had heard Donovan say some stupid things before, but he almost fell over in shock when he heard this. “What?” Kendrick said, failing any attempt to maintain a dignified tone. “I did what?”

“You vandalized my dark room, an unforgivable treason.”

Kendrick blinked, then gave up and addressed it. “How dare you accuse me? Even if I did, that room was a disgrace- a far cry from being truly immersed in darkness. Now, I am one with darkness and I will show it to you somehow. You will either learn and accept it or it will destroy you.”

Wordlessly, Donovan held his palms out- face down as always. He slowly brought them around in a circle, pausing for a minute to concentrate his energy into a ball. Donovan grinned. For a moment, Kendrick was afraid that perhaps Donovan was hiding something. That the energy ball Donovan was firing was perhaps loaded after all. But rather than succumb to Donovan's attempt at intimidation, Kendrick merely raised an arm to block the projectile.

Kendrick ended up doing one better: he caught it. Yet another dud, and it wound up in Kendrick's palm. Unamused, Kendrick held it at his side and opened his hand. The ball levitated as the demon forced his own energy into it.

“First lesson, Donovan...” Kendrick said. As he spoke, the ball grew bigger and his voice grew louder. “If you plan on taking the first shot, make sure it's effective!” He launched the energy blast back at Donovan- a direct hit to the chest, knocking him against the tree stump.

Seething, Kendrick approached him. “If you are foolish enough to refuse my offer, I may as well eliminate you here!”

Donovan forced himself to his feet and shouted, “Blaine! Bryce!”

“Sir!” they said, then trembled the moment they saw Kendrick charge up an attack.

As Kendrick went into his wind-up, Bryce shouted, “Wait!” The demon stopped, holding the energy ball in place as he sullenly looked over at Bryce. “Uh... if you're going to attack us, then shouldn't we, uh, set up a displacement? I mean, we don't want any innocent bystanders to see us killing each other with magic, right? We don't want a repeat of before.”

“Very well,” Kendrick said with a sigh.

This displacement Bryce was referring to was a temporary dimensional shift to allow magic users to do their thing in the event that nosy civilians may happen by. Sort of a frontage road along the space-time continuum. Nearby magic users retained the remnants of what had happened while non-magi continued their normal uninitiated lives.

It all sounded impressive, but once a mage learned how to enter displacement, it was fairly routine procedure. In fact, Bryce did it by simply spinning his crystal around for a few seconds. He, Blaine, Donovan and Kendrick felt a little ringing in their ear, but that was it. Bryce dropped his crystal-bearing arm to his side and smiled. Kendrick smiled back and opened fire.

To his shock, the ball exploded in front of the trio, its debris bouncing off some hidden barrier and falling to the ground.

Bryce hoisted his crystal. “Oh, while I was at it, I put up a shield. Sorry.”

That, too, was a ruse. As Kendrick fumed at Bryce and prepared another attack, he didn't see Blaine charge at him and shoot a wind gust into his face. The demon stumbled backwards, but kept charging his attack. Kendrick got his bearings back in time to see Blaine work up another spell. Kendrick threw whatever power he had put into his ball and fired it. The two released their attacks at the same time... Kendrick won. His blast went right through Blaine's and knocked the minion to the ground.

Anticipating that Kendrick would go after him and Bryce next, Donovan linked his arm with Bryce's. “Maintain that shield at any cost.”

“Yes, sir,” Bryce said as Donovan began his trigger.

Sure enough, with Blaine down, Kendrick turned to Donovan and Bryce, but Donovan was already prepared with a flight spell. He successfully levitated both himself and Bryce into the air. With Kendrick watching helplessly from the ground, Donovan rose up... and up... and drove Bryce's head right into a tree branch.

Both the minion and his shield fell to the ground and the change in weight distribution sent Donovan out of control. He flipped and flailed around in midair, taking a few seconds to regain his balance. He looked down and saw a dazed Blaine and a knocked-out Bryce, but no Kendrick. Then Donovan looked straight ahead. Kendrick was hovering too, wearing quite the smirk. Now he was amused.

“That takes care of them,” Kendrick said, “Now where were we?”


Session Five

While Kendrick was pummeling Donovan, everybody else was still in normal high school mode. As it was Friday night in a rural city, that meant everybody was obsessed with either football or sex. And only Kurt was thinking about the latter, and only in the back of his mind as he and Kathryn played catch in her backyard before the game.

“You know, you can throw it to us too,” Troy said after five straight minutes of Kurt and Kathryn trading throws. While Kurt and Kathryn were both on the team, Troy and Yuki were to be content watching from the seats during the game. Here, however, they just felt left out.

“Sorry Troy. Here, go deep!” Kathryn shouted. As Troy was at the other end of the yard, Kathryn hurled it. As the yard was not a regulation-length football field, the ball sailed well over Troy's head and he sprinted after it.

Kurt winked at Kathryn. “See why they didn't want you at quarterback?”

Despite the ball's inaccessibility, Troy was determined to at least make a play out of it. The only way to do that, however, was with a flight spell. As no one else was watching, Troy lifted himself into the air, flew up and caught up to the ball.

Remember when we said that Troy was bad at catching and useless at catching in midair? Catching in midair while attempting to maintain a flight spell was nothing short of disastrous. The ball squirted out of Troy's outstretched fingers and fell to the ground. Troy also lost his concentration, lost the flight spell, and fell into a row of bushes.

The other three, after they were done laughing, ran up to check on him. Troy picked himself out of the shrubbery and immediately felt woozy. Kathryn grabbed his arm to keep him on two feet. The dizziness left him in a hurry, but he still felt disoriented. Not a room-spinning disorientation, but rather the sensation that the natural compass between the ears that provided sense of direction had suddenly settled on a new magnetic pole, as if west-by-southwest was the new north.

He summarized this feeling thusly: “I feel tingly.”

Before she had the chance to laugh, Kathryn clutched the back of her head. “That's weird. So do I.” She saw Kurt exchange a knowing and deeply concerned look with Yuki.

As Kurt pinched his ear and turned around, Yuki explained, “I think somebody set up a displacement. That's bad news.”

“What do you mean?” Kathryn replied, dropping Troy and approaching Kurt.

Kurt spun around and addressed all three of them. “Okay, something's going on. Troy- come with me. Kathryn and Yuki- find Renee and meet us. Yuki, you know how to get there, right?” Yuki nodded solemnly.

“Wait!” Kathryn shouted. “What's going on?”

The look on Kurt's face said everything. So did his reply: “Bring your staff.”

“But Renee's probably at school. It'll take us forever to get there,” Yuki said.

“Then teleport.”

Nervously, Kathryn replied, “Uh... Yuki and I never really got that teleporting thing down.”

“I can do it. Should I go with them?” Troy offered.

Kurt stared at Troy, pondered everything, then agreed.

“What about Molly?” Yuki asked.

“Knowing Molly...” Kurt said, head turned to the direction of the displacement. “...she's already there.”


When Molly arrived, Kendrick had already delivered quite a beating on Donovan. He repeated the same technique continuously- Kendrick charged at a spot above Donovan, then canceled his flight spell to charge and release a quick attack. His momentum carried him down towards Donovan, where he would kick him in the chest, push off, and cast another flight spell. Despite being subjected to this several times and being beaten to the point of unconsciousness, Donovan refused to let go of his flight, even though it left him as a floating duck.

Molly was fine with this: if Donovan was content with simply absorbing Kendrick's blows, the demon's moves were predictable and made him an easier target. On the ground and keeping her distance, she concentrated a spell, maneuvered her finger very precisely, focused her energy and executed at the precise moment. Behind Kendrick, a tree reared back and snapped forward just as he was in position, slapping him out of orbit and driving him into the dirt. Casting hand and foul glare at the ready, Molly marched towards him.

Kendrick picked himself off the ground, clenching his eyebrows at his assailant. Neither he nor Molly spoke; they didn't need to. One was good, one was evil, and both were about to have at it. Molly began motioning for a spell, but held her finger out and froze. Her icy poker face remained, forcing Kendrick to guess what she had charged up. As much as he appreciated a good mind game, he wasn't going to let a certain violent duel denigrate into a chess match. Carefully watching Molly's finger, he charged up a simple attack and fired.

Unflinching, Molly slashed her finger and the energy mass exploded five feet in front of her. Then she repeated the process and held the same finger out again. This time, instead of an energy ball, Kendrick focused and swiped the ground below him. As designed, a small force propelled forward along the ground, igniting a giant blast where Molly was standing. A mere shield would not provide adequate defense.

But Molly didn't have a shield charged up this time. As soon as Kendrick released, Molly pivoted around on her right foot, then again on her left foot- a speedy way to side-step the attack. Just as the blast reached its intended target a yard to her left, Molly released her spell- she had been preparing her own attack and had been charging it for some time. It wasn't technically finger-lightning, but it sure looked and felt like it.

Oh- and it hurt. Kendrick fell to a knee and clutched his chest. His skin burned and every breath came with the sensation of being whacked in the lungs with a cactus. Both he and Molly knew the actual physical damage to his body was negligible: few MST Weavers could inflict honest bodily injury directly with a spell. Yet intolerable pain was a close enough substitute, and Molly could unleash that in abundance. Kendrick looked up in time to see Molly, still with that stone face, release more of it. Smoke engulfed him and he lost sight of her.

Molly continued to pour it on, putting as much energy as possible into ensuring Kendrick's agony. Finally, she broke it off and let the smoke clear. When it did, she was finally forced to react: Kendrick had vanished. With no explosive magic flying about, silence took over. Molly nervously looked around; a missing demon was not good. She saw nothing, and as she heard the energy ball form directly above her she knew it was too late. Kendrick was now overhead, descending full speed with an attack on the ready. There was no time to react; Molly took the full brunt of it. As she toppled over, Kendrick drove his foot into her face to break his fall and make hers all the more painful.

Kendrick smiled; a hand on his chest was the first part of his trigger. Once Molly had committed to another attack, he had teleported away in time, reappeared before she could counter it and took to the skies before she find him. Now the skilled MST guardian was simply an unconscious girl lying face up on the grass, her forehead split open. Unlike MST Weavers, demons highly approved of spells capable of wounding or even killing. Just like the one Kendrick began to charge up, grinning at the sight of Molly's condition.

“So... that was all from the infamous Molly Pearson?”

As he prepared to deliver the final blow, a sharp pain engulfed his entire left side. He dropped his energy ball, which exploded at his feet, and fell to the ground clutching his waist. Kendrick rose immediately and looked to his left but found nothing. Grumbling, he stammered in that direction for a better look and found the attacker. Donovan was on his knees, arms extended and breathing heavily.

Finally, Donovan had hit his target. He fell forward and passed out, his mission accomplished.


Session Six

Kendrick was pissed, his entire upper body stung and he felt sick to his stomach. He had no reason to kill Donovan, and little capacity to do much more, but if he could at least eliminate Molly, he could look back on this and call it a good day.

He trudged back to her, still lying helplessly in the middle of the clearing. Weak as he was, there was no way he could continue devoting raw energy to attack spells. Therefore, he called upon a typical Hokoni trick: he summoned a sword. Most demons in his faction had access to their own personal rapier and he found it an appropriate and efficient way to destroy his foe.

Before he could reach Molly, however, the earth around her began to shift. Kendrick backed up and watched as the ground rose and surrounded her in a protective barrier. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the source of it. “Do none of you have any concept of a fair fight?” he groaned.

Kurt dropped his arm and replied, “Nope.” He slowly raised his arm again, conjuring another spell.

“This is for what you did to the garage,” he said. As his arm fully extended, a torrent of wind picked up some loose earth and rocks and rushed them over to Kendrick.

Kendrick sliced the dirty cyclone away, not amused. “It's always about rooms and garages. You're all far too possessive.”

Kurt was too busy readying his next attack to listen. This time, a stone wall rose in front of him. After he made a few markings on it and knocked, his next trigger sent whole blocks of the wall after Kendrick. The demon ducked and sliced through this, although some made contact. Unlike a Weaver's spell, this was real rock and therefore caused real injury. Kendrick fell to a knee.

Even on one knee, however, he could see Kurt's next move. As Kurt began to disappear, Kendrick quickly fired off his trigger and forced himself to stand. Halfway to the rock pile guarding Molly, Kurt reappeared. He fell to the ground, the wind knocked out of him. Having a teleportation spell countered had that effect on people.

Kendrick struggled to his feet and stepped towards Kurt, pointing his rapier at the fallen student. “Did you really expect that to work?” Kendrick said.

Still gasping for air, Kurt stood and saw Kendrick's slow approach. Kurt began defensive motions: their battle had just begun.

For all of their abilities, Kendrick had used most of his energy on Donovan and Molly, while Kurt was far better suited towards defense. Therefore, neither of the two could find an opening to attempt an attack after several minutes of positioning, shielding spells and random ineffective rapier thrusts.

When the remaining recruits arrived, however, they saw Kurt boxed in by his own barriers and Kendrick attempting to get through. Between that and seeing Molly in terrible shape within her earthen bunker, they all decided that the current situation was bad.

Troy stated the obvious: “Well, we have to do something.”

Renee stared at her unconscious sister with wide eyes. She had apparently been slotted for the cheerleading squad that night and her short pleated skirt seemed wholly inappropriate. “How? We don't know any useful spells yet,” she replied.

Clutching her staff, Kathryn scoffed. “Pfft. Spells...” Regardless of her actual skill in the field of magic and regardless of her opinion of it, a friend was in trouble and that meant clobbering time.

“Troy!” she barked, “I'm going in- cover my back with whatever you can come up with. Yuki? Once he's distracted, rush in and heal Molly. Renee?” Kathryn glanced at Renee and that gaudy blue cheerleader get-up. “Don't get your skirt dirty. Let's go.”

Perhaps one of the advantages to being ambivalent to the wonders of magic was a lack of fear when up against it. As Kendrick had long since restrained himself, all Kathryn saw as she ran to the rescue was his thin rapier. It may have been sharper than her staff, but her weapon was bigger.

Kendrick saw her approach and quickly held his sword out to parry any attack. Gripping both hands on the staff, Kathryn led off with an overhead strike. Despite the flimsiness of the rapier and his non-dominant hand doing the work, Kendrick knocked it away easily. For all of Kathryn's strength and her weapon's girth, subsequent attacks demonstrated that she wasn't a trained fighter- she was just trying to knock the bad guy out with her staff. Kendrick, meanwhile, was an decent fencer and repelling her simple, telegraphed swings came naturally, even if he wasn't left-handed.

So Kathryn did the next best thing- she threw her whole body into the attack, driving forward with the staff. Kendrick again repelled the staff, but not her fist as she socked him in the chin. She wasn't left-handed either, but he still stumbled backwards.

“How about that?” she spat, taking a moment to catch her breath.

Kendrick checked his chin- no blood. “Oh please, I could have stabbed you in the heart by now if I had any interest in it.”

“If you're not trying to kill us, then why are you here?”

He smiled. “Molly Pearson. I have an interest in killing her.”

If you're wondering why MST students don't use magic incantations, as they are often presented in the media, today's academies value the element of surprise over shouting the name of one's attack beforehand. Had Troy shouted some Latin chant before casting his water spell, Kendrick might not have been totally startled by the deluge of cold water striking him in the side. As it were, the sudden rush of water practically paralyzed him as he dropped his sword to clutch the afflicted area. This, in turn, gave Kurt an opening to charge in with a spell that actually did something.

Still, while it caught him off guard, Kendrick was not actually disabled. Still bent over, he charged up his own spell and fired at Kurt before Kurt could complete his trigger. Another routine energy ball, but it was enough to knock Kurt backwards into the rock pile protecting Molly. “Kurt!” Troy shouted as he ran over.

“As for him, he just peeves me,” Kendrick said, turning back to Kathryn. Equally peeved, she screamed and charged at him with the staff. With minimal panic, Kendrick scooped up his sword with his right hand, leaned down to evade her attack, and calmly stabbed her in the calf. She tumbled over, dropped her staff and howled in pain.

With Kathryn's tire blown, Kendrick turned to Troy and Kurt. The latter was still reeling from the prior attack and the former was still pretty useless, especially as he witnessed Kathryn in agony. Kendrick saw no challenge getting past them to finish off Molly. Troy was determined to present one anyway and fired an attack.

Not only was the water spell ineffective, it fell short of Kendrick, forming a puddle in front of the demon. As Kendrick stepped through it, Troy's stream shortened even more, succeeding only in dampening the ground Kendrick walked upon. Kendrick smiled, ignoring his muddy shoes. Troy smiled too as Kurt raised his arm, loosening the moistened earth to create some makeshift quicksand.

Kendrick lost his balance and stumbled forward, almost falling into the muck. But before Kurt could summon enough strength to call forth another spell, Kendrick fought his way out of it, still standing, and now holding his sword up to pierce his way through to Molly. Kurt and Troy were out of tricks, out of energy and helpless against the armed demon.

A shadow fell on the pair. It wasn't Kendrick's though: it belonged to Renee, and she was casting that warding spell she had learned in Weaving. “Exorcism Extratorum!” she shouted, element of surprise be damned.

While still only a mild irritant, it was enough to send Kendrick staggering backward into the unstable mire. One full-powered water blast toppled him. Renee, holding her skirt in place, jumped down from the rock pile and joined Troy and Kurt. The three slowly approached Kendrick, Kurt carefully conjuring one last spell to dispose of the demon for good.

Kendrick, however, had one more left in him. He summoned it and slammed the ground at his side. Quick jolts of energy rippled around him, shocking anybody in the vicinity. Troy, Kurt and Renee fell to the ground. Though the effect was diminished yards away, it still knocked out Kathryn, already reeling from the pain in her leg.

This was all Kendrick had in him. Completely drained, aching in several places, and unable to get up, he forced his hand to his chest and managed one final spell- teleportation. He visualized someplace dark and isolated where he could go and recover.

As he vanished, Yuki's potion finally took effect. While Molly still felt all the anguish of a boot to the face, the aftermath of Kendrick's magic attack had been remedied. She and Yuki climbed the wall of their rock shelter to survey the carnage- counting Blaine and Bryce on the other end of the clearing, a grand total of seven bodies. All were certainly alive, but for the moment the only thing running through Molly's head was the perennial dogma that assured their safety: demons did not attack MST students.

The sight was almost too much for young Yuki to bear. She fretted loudly, finally mumbling, “Wh... what happened?”

As bad as it was, Molly couldn't stand looking at Yuki witness it all. Comfort, however, was never one of her devices. Molly stared straight ahead at Renee and Kathryn and Troy and Kurt and replied, “They picked the wrong group to put you in.”





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