Excerpt for Stars of Destiny Book Three: Shards by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Stars of Destiny

Book Three: Shards

Melissa Stone

Published by Melissa Stone at Smashwords

Copyright 2018 Melissa Stone

The cover image is “Shards”

By Melissa Stone, drawn June 30, 2018

Cover and design by Melissa Stone

ISBN: 9780463828984

First Electronic Edition

Copyright 2018 Melissa Stone

All rights reserved

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

For Alexcia. These books wouldn’t be possible without your continued support. Thank you for your tireless help and enthusiasm.

Table of Contents

Act 01: The Gang’s All Here

Act 02: Persona non Grata

Act 03: Local Man of Mystery

Act 04: Corentin’s Cunning Plan

Act 05: The Sound of Destiny

Act 06: Wading in the River of Hate

Act 07: Mistress of Puppets

Act 08: My Boyfriend’s Gone

Act 09: What do May Flowers bring?

Act 10: Seeing Red

Act 11: Break Me

Act 12: Throwing Rocks in Glass Houses

Act 13: Wake Up, Fair Lady


About the Author

Act 01: The Gang’s all Here

Trying to organize a group of people as large as they were wasn’t an easy task, nor was finding a place big enough to hold them all without drawing unwanted attention to themselves. As such, it was a few weeks after they’d defeated Draco and had their encounter with the red haired sehashi that they all managed to find a free evening that happened to coincide with a time that they could freely meet in the basement of Dionne’s house without her parents walking in on them.

This time, Dionne didn’t bother with organizing snack food as she had the last time there had been a sehashi meeting at her place. Her lips twitched, remembering that her brother Allan had walked in on that one before she knew that he was the sehashi warrior known as Joker and before he was aware that she and her school friends were sometimes known as Archer, Pyre, Shield, and Fate.

Since then, their circle of friends and associates had grown quite a bit with the addition of Corentin, Hyun, Jin, and Dumia who were also known as Storm, Typhoon, Silence, and Vega. During the final battle against Draco and Monoceros they’d been joined by yet another sehashi, a boy who’d identified himself as Knight and they’d later learned was another one of Dionne’s schoolmates, Kousei Prince. He claimed to have two other team mates but he had remained very tight lipped about their identities since that day, stating only that they would come to the meet up but really weren’t sure about revealing themselves.

It was something Dionne could almost understand as Jin’s team had felt the same way about revealing their identities. She was looking forward to seeing who these two people were.

She glanced up at the clock hanging on the living room wall. It wasn’t quite time yet for even the habitually early Cory Davis to be arriving, likely with her best friend and sehashi partner Hatemi Summers in tow. Her own partner, Hana Dawson, could be counted on to arrive a little later than the others. As to Jin’s team she had no idea what to expect. Kousei would probably be punctual, though.

They’ll get here when they get here, the familiar voice of Laira, her spirit guardian, scolded her. There’s no sense fussing about it.

“I can’t help it,” Dionne admitted. “I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks now.”

As have we all. Fussing won’t get them here any sooner.

The sound of the front door opening interrupted Dionne’s reply. She got up to see who it was to find her brother coming in and taking off his snow covered boots. “Man, it’s gross out there,” he complained.

“It’s March,” Dionne reminded him. “It’s going to be gross for at least another month. Then it’ll be worse while it all thaws when, if I remember right, you’ll complain about your snow mould allergies.”

Allan glared at her. “Bad enough that mom gets on my case about that every year. I don’t need you doing it, too.”

“So stop complaining about things that won’t change and we won’t have to. Either that or move to a warmer climate.”

Allan snorted. “Warmer climate usually means the coast or the states, neither of which are too appealing to me.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I hear Victoria is lovely this time of year.”

“So’s Australia. I’d rather live where the air hurts my face than where the wildlife is constantly out to kill me.”

Is that really true? Laira asked.

“What, about Australia?” Allan asked. “A slight exaggeration but only slight.”

Your world is strange.

“I bet we’d find your home planet to be equally weird,” Dionne said.

Perhaps that’s true, Laira admitted.

Eventually, the others started to show up, taking off their heavy coats and slush covered boots, and picking a place to sit. Dionne was still getting used to knowing that Typhoon and her team mates were students from Elysium Valley High’s rival school, Khun-Lun High. That fact was illustrated quite plainly when Kousei showed up. She barely had time to register the fact that he had Yan and Teir in tow before Kousei and Corentin locked eyes.

“Prince,” Corentin said stiffly.

“Blair,” Kousei replied with an equal amount of barely constrained hostility.

Cory, seated not too far from Corentin, rolled her eyes. “Look, I know you two jocks have some kind of stupid court rivalry going on, but would you mind keeping that separate from this?”

Hyun nodded. “I’m sure that Dionne would like to not be cleaning blood out of her carpets.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be doing it,” Dionne commented. “They would be. On their hands and knees. If I’m feeling particularly generous I might even consider giving them each a toothbrush to use to do it with.”

“Oy, vicious much?” Yan asked, sitting down.

“So you two must be the partners that Kousei mentioned,” Jin said, getting straight down to business.

Teir nodded. “I’m Teir Whitmore. My sehashi name is Balance. Blondie here is Yan Diamono. He’s known as Phantom.”

“See, I don’t get that,” Hatemi said. “For as long as I can remember, you’ve called him that, but his hair is as dark as Hana’s.”

Yan rolled his eyes as Teir and Kousei smirked. “It’s…kind of an inside joke. You’ll likely find out soon enough,” Teir explained.

Now that we know who we all are, we can get down to business, Laira said, startling the three newcomers.

“Sorry, we forgot to mention our spirit guardians,” Dionne said. “That was Laira. Peltoren and Teerla are also here.”

Hello, Peltoren said helpfully.

Yan and Kousei exchanged a look. “We’ve heard about those, but we’d never actually seen one.”

“Or known anyone who had one,” Teir added.

“To have three in one place is more than a little strange,” Hyun commented. “But then, from what I know of how sehashi are supposed to function, to have so many of us in one town is more than a little odd.”

“This does seem like overkill,” Kousei commented.

“It’s not just us, either,” Allan said. “I used to have a team before they and our spirit guardian were killed.”

“It helps that Jin’s team only arrived here recently, chasing Draco,” Dionne said.

“But why were we all drawn here?” Yan asked.

Part of it clearly has something to do with the Ssu-Ling, Laira said. The Talismans are linked to sehashi and my thinking is that the easiest way to get access to those is to get a lot of sehashi in one place.

It’s also possible that you were all pulled here by the energy of the Ssu-Ling, Teerla said. I know you yourselves had little influence over the decisions your parents made to come here, but something about this place would have been made very appealing to them and thus you would have been brought here.

“That’s an interesting theory,” Teir said. “If you don’t mind my asking, what is the normal distribution of sehashi for a town this size?”

If something this size had a team of two or three along with a spirit guardian it would have been considered overkill, Peltoren said. Generally something this small isn’t worth bothering with. It’s usually only the big cities that get hit with trouble.

“So you’d say it’s strange to see the Lords of Chaos here.”

Yes, most definitely, but now that we know that the Ssu-Ling were trapped here it makes complete sense that they would have had a team here. Vulturia’s defeat is most likely what drew Draco here and with them Typhoon’s team.

“Now we have that strange red headed sehashi to deal with,” Hana grumbled, folding her arms.

“Here’s hoping that she’s not possessing some poor sap the way Draco was,” Cory said fervently. “It’s bad enough that Danika, Melanthe, and Eglantine were messed up by this. No one else needs to get hurt.”

“How are they, by the way?” Dionne asked.

Jin shrugged. “I’ve been keeping an eye on Melanthe since we freed her from Ophiuchus but she doesn’t seem any different than she did before we knew the truth. A bit better adjusted, but no major differences. She and Eglantine don’t seem to know if they should be staying away from each other or bonding over their mutual trauma.”

“Danika started coming back to school last week,” Kousei said. “She won’t talk to any of us. Not that I can really blame her.”

“She was more aware of what was going on than the others I think,” Cory said. “She called me out on who I was before changing into Draco.”

“It does make one wonder if Melanthe and Eglantine were pretending to not have been aware of what was happening to them,” Hana said.

Hatemi shot her a dirty look. “Anyone who’d see Melanthe after we freed her from Ophiuchus wouldn’t say that. You can’t fake a reaction like that. Draco was the strongest of the three. Maybe that affected Danika somehow.”

“It’s a plausible theory,” Hyun admitted. “There’s a lot we still don’t know about them and how they were able to possess those poor girls in the first place.”

It’s not likely that we ever will, Peltoren said. I shudder to think what kind of power it would take to stick the essence of one being into the body of another and having the two people essentially coexist.

“Do you three have any thoughts about that red haired woman?” Corentin asked. “It’s not going to be long before we’ll be hearing from her again and I’d rather not be caught with my proverbial pants down.”

There’s not much we can offer on that score, Teerla admitted. We’ve been trying to figure out who she could be but we’ve come up with nothing.

No, not nothing, Laira corrected. At the very least we’re quite sure that she wasn’t responsible for putting Draco’s team into those girls. Her power just felt…wrong for that.

“You could tell that from our brief encounter with her?” Kousei asked, sounding impressed.

When you’ve been around as long as I have, you learn to get a quick read on other sehashi. Her power felt wrong for that. More destructive in nature. I can’t be more specific than that, though.

The bad news is that this tells us that there’s someone else out there who did this and whoever that is could possibly be working with the redhead, Teerla said.

“Well, that’s lovely, but at least we know there’s a chance we could expect more than one of these people to pop up,” Dumia grumped.

Also given her connection to Draco and Draco’s connection to Vulturia, I think it’s safe to say that our new enemy is also a Lord of Chaos, one powerful enough to be manipulating our previous enemy, Peltoren put in.

“Excuse me, Lord of Chaos?” Teir asked.

Sorry, I forget that the three of you haven’t been fighting with us, she apologized. The Lords of Chaos are a group of people who are followers of a group of ancient sehashi known as the Ssu-Ling.

“I know that word,” Teir said. “Those are the four mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations.” They all stared at him. “What? I did a report on it in junior high as part of our astronomy unit.”

In reality, the Ssu-Ling are a set of five sehashi from that part of the world. As I told the others before I can’t quite recall what their individual names were. Somewhere along the line they went rogue. Those who follow them, civilian and sehashi alike, are known collectively as the Lords of Chaos. It took a group of six uncorrupted sehashi to seal them away, ending the Great War. Our last battle with Draco brought together the five Talismans that had been used to lock their prison and if the redhead can be believed they’re now free.

“And you don’t think we’ll be hearing from these Ssu-Ling?” Yan asked doubtfully.

Imagine that you’ve been locked away in a cage for how many thousands of years and have just been released. You don’t have the first clue where you are, what language the people around you are speaking, or even what something as simple like a pen is, let alone something as potentially terrifying as a car.

Those still get me, Peltoren admitted.

Yes, well, we know what your world was like, Laira said, her tone one of teasing. No concept of technology whatsoever.

“Focus, people,” Allan growled.

Right, sorry. So, not only are they likely to be extremely weak from their time locked away but they need time to adjust to how things are now. Aside from the Lords of Chaos, no one is exactly going to be falling down on their knees to worship them like they did in the past.

“Sehashi were worshipped?” Allan asked.

You all have as much power as you do and the potential for even more still and you can ask that question? Teerla asked, incredulous. Primitive societies such as early humans weren’t known for their intelligence. What they don’t understand they fear or worship. Considering the alternative worship usually seems like a good idea. Until it goes wrong, though it rarely goes wrong on a scale such as the Ssu-Ling.

“They can’t have been the only ones to have been so corrupt,” Cory said.

No, they weren’t, but the resulting war was the worst and its effects are still being felt. Before them, there was a group called the Andulai from a world called Yenus Prime that was almost as bad.

I know that place, Laira said wistfully. Or, rather, what’s left of it. My lifegiver used to tell stories about it. It was said to have been a paradise before the Andulai became corrupt. One of the sehashi I fought beside in the Great War was originally from Yenus Prime. It’s a harsh place now. He fought harder than most to take down the Ssu-Ling, though sadly he didn’t live to see it happen.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Laira,” Dionne said softly.

Why? I didn’t know him that well and it was a very long time ago.

Yan rubbed his head. “While this is all fascinating, we’re not getting anywhere. Yeah, great, we’ve met you all and learned some things, but I get the feeling that this is as far as we’re going to get until the enemy makes a move.”

“At least we’ll be ready for it this time,” Allan said. “We know she’s coming. It’s something we’ve never had before.”

“That’s all well and good, but our three new allies aren’t going to be all that much help,” said Corentin, folding his arms.

“Hey!” Kousei sounded hurt.

“He’s not entirely wrong,” Teir pointed out. “We’ve known about our sehashi selves for how long and we haven’t gotten much stronger than we were when we found out about it. Frankly, I’m amazed that Kousei manifested one of those Talismans at all.”

Those have more to do with strong personality traits than power, Peltoren commented. Knight’s is the Talisman of strength.

“So he’s just a strong person, is that is?” Corentin asked.

Possibly. Who really knows how those things actually work?

Kousei shrugged. “All I know is I’ve had that stupid thing for years, but in the last year it changed shape to look like that double ended dagger.”

As to your powers and relative strength, if I could see what you’re capable of, then perhaps I could offer you some advice on how to grow, Teerla offered. All three of us could, really.

“That’s very nice of you,” Teir started.

I imagine Kousei would be more comfortable taking advice from us than he would from Corentin or Hyun, who would also be more than capable of doing so.

“As much as I don’t like dealing with these disembodied voices, I have to agree with them,” Kousei said slowly. “If we’re going to be of any use, we need help.”

“I take it, then, that you think we need them,” Dumia said.

Undoubtedly, Laira said firmly. It was the five Talismans that sealed the Ssu-Ling away in the first place. If we’re to have any chance at repeating the process, we need to get Kousei up to speed. If we’re going to train Kousei, we may as well bring Yan and Teir along for the ride. Going up against the Ssu-Ling, even as weak as they are, won’t be an easy task and the more help we have against them, the better.

Kousei looked at Yan and Teir. “Are you two ok with this?”

Yan frowned. “Do we have a choice?”

You always have a choice, Teerla said. No one will fault you for not wanting to get involved. Many sehashi didn’t want to involve themselves in the Great War as it meant fighting against people who were just like them. Even corrupted, they were still sehashi and it’s hard.

“I’m in,” Teir said. At Yan’s startled look, he continued. “What? If I don’t help, Kousei is likely to get his stupid self killed. At least one of us has to be there to watch his back.”

Yan rolled his eyes. “I hate it when you make sense.”

“So you’re both in?” Kousei asked hopefully.

Yan waved one hand, irritated. “Yeah, yeah. Don’t expect me to like it, though.”

Hatemi punched him lightly in the shoulder. “That’s the spirit, Yan!”

He glared at her. “Just don’t make me work with that one and we’re fine. Cool?”

I think that can be managed, Laira said.

“Oy!” Hatemi exclaimed, pouting.

“Alright, alright, look, I’ve got to go,” Corentin said, getting up. “I’ve got a test tomorrow that I need to do well on if I’m going to keep my grades up.”

“Basketball season is basically done with,” Kousei said.

“Well, yeah, but I still like to keep my grades up. Now that it looks like we’re staying in Elysium Valley, we need to think about our futures. That means decent grades.”

Jin eyed him. “Are you feeling alright?”

“Yeah, fine, why?”

“It’s just that you’ve never shown any concern about school before.”

“What was the point when Draco or her team mates could have wiped us out at any time? Now that it’s not the case, I can relax a little, maybe be a regular boy with some regular boy worries.”

“I’ve got early class tomorrow, so this seems like a good point to break things up,” Allan offered. “Yan, Teir, Kousei, it was nice meeting you three.”

“Likewise,” Teir said politely as Allan left the room.

Soon after, everyone was getting up to get their jackets and boots back on to head out into the slushy streets of the Arcadia housing district. Once she was alone again in her house, Dionne sunk down onto a couch, staring blankly at the wall.

This is going to be a rough one.

Act 02: Persona non Grata

School the next day was interrupted by a surprise assembly that was announced in second period. Dionne wasn’t complaining much about having her math class interrupted, but none of the teachers were overly pleased about the disruption to their classes. It was clear from Mr. Martin’s reaction that this hadn’t been discussed among the faculty. Irritated staff members led confused and somewhat pleased students towards the school auditorium. When everyone was seated, Principal Davenport, a portly but jovial middle aged man, got up on the stage and signalled for their attention.

“Good morning, staff and students,” he began. “I apologize for disrupting your routine, but there wasn’t time to brief any of you about this. It is, however, vital that we meet to discuss a matter of utmost importance. Last December, rumours began to pass around the school about these girls in navy outfits who were fighting monsters. I dismissed it as typical teenaged nonsense, more of the usual urban legends that you hear in this city; however, as time passed, we all learned first-hand that not only are these not rumours or urban legends but it’s clear that these girls are very real and very dangerous.”

The students murmured, wondering where he was going with this.

Principal Davenport waved his hands for silence. “There was a point a few weeks ago where the police became involved in dealing with them. That’s how dangerous they are. I received an email from the mayor’s office this morning. It’s been sent to every school in the city, informing us of just how dangerous these people are. It contains descriptions and instructions to call the police immediately if you see any of them. The mayor believes that they’re a public threat and they need to be dealt with by the proper authorities.”

“But what about the ones who protected the school?” a voice called out. Dionne recognized it as Abenti Galger’s.

“While I recognize that they kept my students safe, some of them were the ones the police were involved with, so it’s best to not get involved with any of them.”

While Principal Davenport continued, giving the students descriptions of the sehashi—although that word was never used—Dionne looked around, desperately trying to make eye contact with any of her friends. Finally, she found Hatemi trying to do the same thing. She nodded so slightly that Dionne almost missed it and tapped the spot on her uniform where her pendant was hanging before turning her attention back to the stage and pretending to pay attention.

Reassured that the others were as worried about this development as she was, she did her best to pay attention to what was being said, figuring that it was best to be informed. Hatemi couldn’t be counted on to pay attention, though Cory most likely was, Teir as well. Yan likely couldn’t be bothered, but then he so rarely did when it came to assemblies. Hana probably wasn’t even present. If she’d spotted an opportunity to duck away before getting into the auditorium she would have taken it. She hated assemblies, counting on her friends to fill her in on the boring details later. It was an appalling habit, but one Dionne couldn’t necessarily blame her for.

Not soon enough, the torturous assembly was over and the students were released back to their classrooms with mere minutes to go before the bell was due to ring for lunch. Mr. Martin barely had time to assign them some reading and a page of questions for homework before the chime over the intercom released them from his classroom.

Dionne grabbed her things and bolted uncharacteristically for the cafeteria, bumping into Kousei on the way there. He nodded grimly at her. From the look on his face she figured he was thinking the same thing.

They grabbed a table that was as isolated from the student population as they could get and sat down to wait for the others to join them. It wasn’t long before Teir and Hatemi found them. Cory, who’d been sitting at another table, got up to join them, and Yan and Hana got there moments later.

“Well, aren’t we all a cheerful bunch today?” Yan asked.

“No one has any reason to be,” Hana snapped. “This is bad, very bad.”

“To be fair, something like this was bound to happen,” Cory said. “We haven’t exactly been subtle with our activities and neither were Draco and company.”

Kousei folded his arms. “Even so, this is bad. Just when we’re willing to start helping out, this happens.”

“I’m actually a little surprised it took this long,” Teir said. “If this was going to happen, I figured the mayor would have done so not long after Draco first started her attacks.”

“I wonder why it took so long,” Hatemi mused.

Hana snorted. “Probably just politics. My parents contributed to her re-election campaign but I just don’t understand her stance on things. They tell me I’ll understand when I’m older but it just doesn’t make sense.”

“Regardless, what do we do now?” Hatemi asked. “It’s going to be a lot harder to work with the city treating us like public enemy number one.”

“What else can we do?” Dionne asked. “If our enemy attacks, we do what we have to. We’re not the bad guys here. It’s not our fault that the mayor is under the impression that we’re the cause of all this.”

“I hate to admit it, but she’s not wrong,” Yan said. “I’ve met the mayor; she seems like a rational person. It makes me wonder where she’s getting her information from.”

Cory’s eyes widened. “Could she possibly be being influenced by the enemy?”

“I’m not sure how that would be possible, but it’s a thought,” Teir mused.

“Keep in mind that we know nothing about this enemy aside from her general appearance and her affiliation with the Lords of Chaos,” Hana said. “Frankly, anything’s possible.”

“We should all keep our eyes open for anything that could help us to identify our current enemy as well as why we’re suddenly persona non grata around here.”

“That means a person not appreciated,” Teir said to Hatemi.

“I knew that,” she grumped.

“Sure. You just looked really confused there for a second.”

The bell rang, warning them that lunch was over and classes would be resuming shortly. Glumly, they dealt with the remains of their respective lunches and headed off to their lockers to prepare for their third period class. Dionne had a spare after lunch so she walked with Hana to her locker.

“I’m worried,” Hana admitted. “Why hasn’t this woman made a move yet?”

“Now that you've said it, that bothers me too. I’m kind of glad you didn’t say anything at lunch.”

“There’s also the slight worry that she’ll do something now that I’ve said something out loud.”

Dionne winced. “Now I wish you’d kept that to yourself.”

“Sorry. I needed to share it with someone or go nuts.”

“Teerla isn’t someone?”

“You know what I mean,” Hana grumped. “I’ve got to get to class before that bell rings. I’ll talk to you later.”

Dionne waited until Hana was inside the classroom before heading back to the library. She wanted to get her Social Studies homework done to free up her evening a little bit. Settling down at one of the tables, she got out her textbook, some fresh sheets of paper, and a pencil. Pen looked nicer but pencil was easier to correct if she made a mistake. Checking her planner, she opened the textbook to the correct page and started to read, checking the questions on the following page to make sure she was getting the correct information from the readings.

“Hi Dionne. Mind if I sit down?”

She looked up. “Oh, hi, Nai’a. I didn’t know you had a spare this period.”

“I didn’t at first, but I dropped cooking early in the semester. It frees up my time a lot.”

“I bet. Have a seat.”

Nai’a took a seat opposite from Dionne. “Is that the social homework?”

“Yeah. I prefer to get it done sooner rather than later.”

She made a face. “Yuck. I avoid homework at all costs.”

“That could be why your grades are so abysmal.”

“Possibly.” She shrugged, her dark ponytails twitching with the motion. “Not that I care.”

“Why not?”

“Look, Di, I’m going to level with you. As soon as I can, I’m getting out of this place, good grades or no. This place makes me crazy.”

“You’re not going to college?”

“Why would I want to? I don’t have any particular need for that.”

Dionne shrugged. “To each their own, I guess.”


“Your parents are okay with this?”

Nai’a snorted derisively. “They lost the ability to have any say in my life and my choices a very long time ago.”

“Oh. I’m…sorry?”

“Don’t be. My life is in a better place now.” She paused. “You’re kind of a smart person, huh?”

“I get by.”

“Not like I care about my grades or anything, but I’d at least like to graduate. Bare minimum. The only classes I’m doing well in are my music courses.”

“Colour me shocked,” Dionne drawled. “We’re always shocked that you don’t have a trumpet surgically grafted to your hand.”

“I know, right? Look, would you be ok with helping me with social? It’s pretty much my worst subject ever.”

“It’s not a particularly difficult subject.”

“It is when you have trouble with remembering dates.”

“Ah, yeah, that would make it hard. Okay, I’ll help.”

“Fantastic!” Nai’a squealed, earning her a disapproving glare from the librarian.

“Why don’t we start with today’s assignment? I’ve got extra paper and pencils you can borrow.”

“You know? You’re alright.”

“I am?” Dionne asked, puzzled, sliding a sheet of paper and a pencil across the table.

“Yeah. Some of the music kids think you’re a bit weird, but you’re okay.”


“You’re welcome.”

The bell rang at the end of the day, releasing the students of Elysium Valley High back out into the slushy March weather. It was still too cold to go without thick coats and boots, but by the end of the school day it had warmed up enough that most of the students left the front of the coats wide open. The student population filed out to their respective bus stops. Some students had access to vehicles and drove to school.

Cory probably could have gotten her hands on a car if she asked her parents for it. She certainly knew how to drive. She’d gotten her license over the summer break, but with how connected Elysium Valley’s transit system was and how much time she spent in school she didn’t really see much point in bothering with a car.

She sat down on the bench at her bus stop to wait. Not long after, Kousei sat down beside her. He was silent for a while. “Hey, are you ok?” he asked.

Cory looked at him. “Yeah, fine. Why do you ask?”

He shrugged. “Everyone seems really on edge with the current situation, especially after the assembly this morning. I just...wanted to make sure that you were okay.”

She exhaled. “I have to be okay. There’s a lot going on and the situation is only going to get worse from here on out.”

“How bad does this usually get?” he asked. “I’ve never actually fought before.”

“You haven’t?”

Kousei shook his head. “Not like you guys have. Frankly, I’m surprised I have one of those Talisman things considering how weak and inexperienced I am.”

Cory smiled. “I’m the weakest one on my team and yet here I am with one. Hatemi has another. Allan and Dumia having the other two makes sense, really. The two of us make the least sense.”

“Here’s to being nonsensical together,” Kousei cheered as the bus pulled up.

They got up from the bench and boarded the bus, flashing their transit passes at the driver. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you on this bus and we’ve been going to school together for a year and a half now,” Cory observed.

Kousei shrugged, taking a seat beside her so they could talk more easily. “During basketball season, I take a later bus. In the off season Teir usually gives me and Yan a ride home, but he’s got something he has to do and can’t do it today.”

“You three are pretty close, huh?”

“They’re my buds,” Kousei agreed. “We’ve been friends since we were little, since preschool actually.”

“That long?”

Kousei nodded. “For a while, we didn’t go to school together, but we were so close that our moms got together and made sure we were able to be around each other again. Teir had a hard time making friends and Yan’s always been, well, Yan.”

“A loner,” Cory translated.

“Pretty much.”

“And you?”

“You know me. I’ve always been the outgoing popular kid, but they were the first friends I had and I missed them. So in second grade we all wound up at West Side Elementary.”

“I wondered where you went to school. Dionne, Hatemi, and I went to Goshen Elementary and then to Utopia Junior High.”

“Didn’t Hana go to school with you?”

“She’s a private school brat. Her parents sent her to Ching Tu. She only transferred to Elysium High last year because she was bored and wanted to be with her friends.”

“That makes sense I suppose, but if you went to different schools how did you four meet in the first place?”

“You’re full of questions today.”

“We’re all going to be working together. It just makes sense to get to know you guys a little better. Besides, I’ve always wanted to know, but never really got the chance to ask.”

Cory turned her head to look out the window, and then reached up to yank on the cord to indicate they needed to get off at the next stop.

“What are you doing?” Kousei asked. “We’re not anywhere near the right stop.”

“No, but we both desperately need to get off right now,” she insisted. “There’s a thing over there that we need to take care of.”

“A thing?” Kousei asked blankly as the bus slowed to a stop. He got up.

“Yeah, you know. One of those things that we were all talking about the other day?”

“Oh, a thing!” He scrambled down the bus steps with Cory close behind him. Once the bus was headed off on its way, he asked, “Which way was it?”

“Back that way a bit,” Cory replied, pointing. “If we hurry, we can get there before she does too much damage.”


“I’m pretty sure it was that redhead we met when we all defeated Draco and her crew.”

“Oh great. This is going to be fun.”

They took off running towards the area Cory had spotted the strange red haired sehashi in. It was hard for them both to run on the damp sidewalks but even harder for the bookish Cory to keep up with the athletic Kousei. She was gasping for breath by the time they arrived.

After ducking behind one of the ripest smelling dumpsters either of them had ever had the misfortune of encountering, they confronted the redhead as their sehashi selves Knight and Shield.

The teal and brown clad sehashi turned as they approached, a coy smile playing across her lips. “So you’ve decided to come out and play after all. How brave of you.”

“You have a lot of nerve showing your face out in public,” said Shield.

“Why, because the city has declared all of us to be public enemy number one?” she scoffed. “I have nothing to fear from what is laughably known as this city’s law enforcement agency. If you fear them, you have no business acting as sehashi, let alone interfering in my work.”

“The police don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to this,” Knight said. “We’re not dangerous, but we know rogue sehashi like you are. It’s our job to teach them the difference.”

She looked at him condescendingly. “That’s just sad. They’ll never learn. People never do; they’re too busy being scared of the things they don’t understand and aren’t capable of understanding.”

“Have you even tried?” Shield challenged.

“You ask me that as if the answer were not painfully obvious.” She rolled her eyes. “They were as much of a nuisance as you two are turning into.”

“As long as you’re talking to us, you’re not hurting anyone.”

She shrugged. “That’s where you’re sadly wrong.”

Before either Knight or Shield could ask her what she meant by that all of the people in the area began to collapse. It was one or two at first and then dozens of people were down on their knees, eventually falling over unconscious. The two of them looked around, horrified.

“What did you do to them?” Shield asked.

“Oh nothing much, just started the process that will drain them of all their energy,” she drawled, inspecting her fingernails.

“Why would you do that?” Knight asked.

“Why not? We have to get the energy to revive the Ssu-Ling from somewhere so it may we well come from these ignorant fools.”

“Whoa, revive?”

She sighed. “Don’t you two idiots know anything? I’m amazed you two have managed to last this long with how utterly ignorant you are.”

Shield squinted and summoned her sword-like Talisman. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Knight doing the same thing. “Let them go!” she demanded.

“Or what, you’ll poke me into boredom with that useless piece of junk you’re holding?” The redhead held her hand out and a long teal handled sword with a wicked golden blade. Its sharp edge gleamed in the light. “If you want to fight, get a real weapon. Otherwise don’t waste my time.”

“She said let them go. Burning Star Shine!”

The redhead batted Knight’s attack away with the flat of her blade. “Did you really expect that pathetic attempt would change my mind in any way? Destruction Sphere!” A brilliant ball of teal energy hit Knight squarely in the chest, knocking him back a few feet.

“Knight!” Shield cried out. “Are you ok?”

“I feel like I’ve been kicked by a bull,” he groaned, staggering back towards her.

“Most would have run away by now. You’re either braver than you look or incredibly stupid.”

“My friends would probably say that I’m a little bit of both,” Knight admitted. “Burning Star Shine!”

“Snow Crystal Strike!”

She dodged Knight’s attempts, but some of Shield’s ice hit her left hip. She sighed and brushed it off. “That was only marginally better. Blade Dance!” Tiny shards of golden light rained down on Knight and Shield, tearing holes in their uniforms and cutting into their skin.

“Stop playing with the children and let’s go,” a new, distinctly female voice said. “We’ve drained these people as far as they’ll go. Time to move on.”

The assault stopped. When Knight and Shield managed to look up again, their attacker was gone and they were standing in the middle of a city block surrounded by unconscious people.

“This is bad,” Shield said even though it was clearly unnecessary.

“Agreed. We should get out of here before the cops show up and think this is all our fault.”

“That’s assuming that there are no security cameras around to see this.”

Knight groaned. “Wouldn’t that just be our luck?”

Act 03: Local Man of Mystery

There’s still no word on what it was that caused more than two dozen people to suddenly collapse in the middle of Kentnor Row yesterday afternoon. Several of them are still in critical condition at River Valley Hospital. City police are asking that anyone who has any information call the tip hotline or visit the nearest detachment.”

Sighing deeply, Teir changed the radio station.

“Something wrong, Teir?” Yan asked from the front passenger seat. “You always listen to the news on the way to school.”

“Usually the news doesn’t have stuff about sehashi blasting all over it,” was his reply.

“Is that what it is?”

“Believe it,” Kousei grumped. “Cory and I had a run in with that crazy redhead on the way home from school yesterday.”

Teir pulled up to a red light and turned to look briefly at Kousei. “Are you kidding me? Why didn’t you call either of us to say anything?”

“Because I got home from dealing with that, ate something, and pretty much passed out. I didn’t do much, admittedly, but using my sehashi power is still stupidly draining, never mind getting hit with that redhead’s wrecking ball of doom.”

“Her what now?” Yan asked.

“She hit me in the chest with this glowing orb thing. Man, did it hurt! What did she call it again? Destruction something or other, I think.”

Teir winced. “Ouch.”

“The worst part is that I think she was toying with us. From the look of her uniform and that sword she called up out of nowhere she’s probably a lot stronger than any of us.”

Yan shrugged. “From what Dionne was saying, all of the enemies they’ve gone up against were stronger than they were. They got through it. We’ll get through this. Plus, there’s, what, eleven of us?”

“An even dozen if you want to count Dionne’s brother in,” Teir reminded him.

“The redhead’s not alone,” Kousei said. “There was another one that popped up while we were fighting.”

“You waited until now to bring that up?” Yan complained.

“Sorry. I didn’t get a good look at her, but she sounded like a her, I’m pretty sure her uniform is just like the other’s but with gold and light brown, and she’s got this long pink hair.”

“Anything else? Did you maybe catch their names?”

“It was really hard to see even that much while we were under attack from these funky shard things that were raining down on our heads. They hurt!”

“Sorry, Kousei, but it’s getting really frustrating referring to this enemy as ‘the redhead’. Now there’s one with pink hair? How are we supposed to refer to her?”

“The pinkhead?” Yan suggested snarkily.

“Very funny. I don’t think that’s a real word or even a real thing.”

“Neither is pink hair and yet here we are.”

“Hopefully, we’ll figure out who these girls are sooner rather than later,” Kousei said. Teir’s van was pulling into the high school’s student parking lot. “Maybe then we can figure out how to stop them from hurting more people.”

“Speaking of that, just what happened out there anyway?” Teir asked.

“Oh, yeah, she said something about draining them of their energy. She didn’t say why though and when we asked she called us ignorant.”

“Harsh,” Yan commented.

“Well, we know she’s working for or in some way affiliated with the Lords of Chaos, so her reason for doing so is likely related to that somehow,” Teir said.

“That makes sense, but what are they doing with the energy?”

“Good question and I’m not sure I want to know,” Yan said with a shudder.

“In any case, we should go find the others and update them.”

“I’d be willing to bet that Cory’s already done that,” Kousei pointed out. “She was there with me after all and I don’t think she would be as wiped out as I was.”

“Huh. Fair point.”

“Teir, can I borrow a pencil?”

Something about the sound of Kalantha’s voice made his skin crawl. He’d been in the same class as her for a while and she seemed otherwise nice, but her voice always bothered him. He flipped to the front of his binder, pulled out his spare pencil, and handed it to her. “Here you go.”

She smiled. “You’re such a peach.”

“Don’t mention it,” Teir said, turning back to his work.

Kalantha leaned closer to his desk. “I’m having some trouble with the assignment. Can you help me?”

“It’s not that hard, but if you’re having trouble, why don’t you ask Ms. Holden for help?”

She flipped her red curls back behind her shoulder. “Because I’m asking you. You’re so smart and you make this seem so much easier.”

Annoyed, Teir looked at her. “Look, Kalantha, I’d like to help you. I really would, but I’m trying to get this done and I don’t have time to walk you through what is actually pretty easy stuff. If you’re having so much trouble with it, maybe you should rethink taking chem.”

With a huff Kalantha turned back to her work. A little while later, someone tapped on the corner of Teir’s desk. He looked up into a pair of brown eyes.

“I think she likes you.”

“She has a funny way of showing it, Ayla,” he replied.

Ayla shrugged. “Kalantha’s just weird. She really only has the one friend here at school.”

“She has a friend? That’s a bit of a surprise.”

“Harsh, Teir.”

“Oh come on! She’s rude, inconsiderate, impulsive, and all over the place emotionally.”

“Congratulations, you’ve just described pretty much every teenage girl in existence.”

“We must hang out with very different girls, then. The ones I know aren’t so…” Teir trailed off, trying to find the right word.

“Crazy?” Ayla supplied.

“I was looking for a less offensive word, but that will do in a pinch.”

“I’ve noticed you spending more time with Dionne and her crew lately,” Ayla observed. “Is that who you’re talking about?”

“There’s a few others I know, but in general yes.”

“I’m going to let you in on a secret. All girls are crazy. Even the seemingly sane ones like myself and Dionne. Even Cory has her moments of lunacy.”

“I find that really hard to believe. She’s the most stable person I know.”

“I’ve known her a long time. Take my advice and try not to get on her bad side. She can get kind of scary when she wants to.”

“Do you have any other bits of sage advice for me today?”

Ayla shook her head. “No, just keep an open mind. Sometimes a girl doesn’t really want help with her school work and actually wants to spend time with you or get to know you. I know, crazy right?”

Out of the corner of his eye, Teir glanced at Kalantha who was talking to Hana. “So...she was flirting?”

“Now you’re catching on.”

Teir eyed Ayla warily. “People don’t flirt with me. I’m the nerd everyone ignores.”

“She must think you’re more than just a brain with legs if she’s trying that hard to get your attention.”

“She’s cute,” he admitted. “Problem is, there’s something about her voice that just...bugs me. I don’t know what it is and I can’t even really explain why it bothers me.”

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