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<- Part I

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This story, Consort of Illusion II, is being written.

Chapter Fourteen: Festering PowersEdit

The expansive castle that Juan, his scientists, Kola and the PES called home floated soundlessly through the night sky like a cloud. The technologically advanced fortress flew unnoticed in the beautiful night illuminated by the full moon, its long wings stretching as if it was preparing for an embrace. The scientists were in the southern-most wing in a domed area, scientists were diligently working, tapping the keys of their keyboards expeditiously, working at equations and gathering data for the castle's master. While this was happening, in the west wing, the PES were unwinding from another day of learning, training, in working. Soft "clacks" and "clicks" could be heard in room D-12. The bedroom was illuminated by the bright, white light. Clack. One bed was neatly made while half of the blanket of the other bed touched the cold, white granite floor. Click. Half of the room was filled with smug, relaxed energy while the other was filled with tense energy, so tense that no music was heard. Clack. A seductive, tan brunette woman in a poster hung on the wall who wore a black bikini while on a stationary motorcycle at night while licking a lollipop regarded the scene with her brown eyes teasingly half-closed. Click.

Joshua chuckled lowly as he ran his slender fingers through his curly, ash blond hair. He smiled smugly at his opponent. "Are you sure you want to do that?" he asked, teasingly.

Carmelo raised a suspicious eyebrow before looking at his piece, which he still held with his right index finger and thumb. He blinked before letting go and slowly retracting his hand. "...yeah..." he confidently confirmed before chomping into a Twix bar.

Joshua chuckled. "If you say so." Joshua chuckled. When Carmelo looked, the blond psychic's deep gray eyes seemed to convey, "I have you now!" Joshua moved his piece, placing it with a "clack". Click. 

"Checkmate." announced Joshua with a smile.

Carmelo rose to his feet swiftly and angrily. "What!? How?!" he cried.

Joshua pointed the the pieces with a smile and explained his comrade's folly.

Carmelo peered at the checkered board squinting as he looked at the pieces and mapped the movement of the pieces in his head. "Ugh!" he suddenly groaned before covering his face with his palm. "I shoulda' saw that one comin'!" he chastised.

Joshua chuckled. "You know, you have the workings of a brilliant tactician. You're just a bit too rash and you lack foresight, for now."

Carmelo sighed. "Like hell I am. How the hell can you predict what'll happen like ten turns down the line anyway."

"Come now Carmelo, I can feel your potential. I also know to win at chess, you need to be able to predict every possible move your opponent may make and you need to be good at thinking ahead." he explained. He chuckled, smiling deviously. "The fact that so far, you've proven extremely predictable certainly helps."

Carmelo shut his eyes in annoyance as he leaned against the wall with his arms folded. "Shut up." he commanded, earning him a laugh from Joshua. Carmelo opened an eye, frowning. "Say, speakin' of "knowing", how the hell am I sposed' to know you ain't using your mind readin' powers to win these games?" he questioned.

"Oh Carmelo, you don't trust me?" Joshua asked. Carmelo answered in a blank stare, causing Joshua to sigh. "Believe me, fortunately I haven't felt my head get lighter during any of our games but I promise I'd tell you and stop playing if I did." Carmelo put his fists on his hips. Joshua smirked. "Psychic's honor."

Carmelo looked upwards and blew a breath from his nose.

"I have noticed some improvement, Carmelo." 

Carmelo blew another breath as his eyes darkened. "Yeah right." he combated.

Joshua would have combated him in turn if not for something else grabbing hold of his attention. He was running his hand along his arm when he ran across a sizable patch of strange feeling, smooth skin where hair would not grow. Joshua raised his right and intensely regarded it, taking note of the ugly, large, jagged scar that was pinker than the rest of his skin: a memento from Gaia and her witches. Thankfully, Afwerki was able to heal me and I'm grateful for that but he was unable to reverse all the damage... Joshua frowned. It's so ugly, so jarring. Even with scabs and bullies, I've managed to keep my skin perfect-looking. I'm only a little over a week into this conflict and I've already received this huge scar, I wonder what other wounds I'll receive. Joshua blinked. I wonder how Zoe will regard my scar. He smiled. She'll love me regardless. She'll still think I'm beautiful, every single inch of me. Though she'll probably still want to find the ones responsible. I don't think she'd fare too well against those two witches.

Carmelo regarded his room mate with curiosity as Joshua intensely stared at his arm. "What's eatin' ya'?" asked Carmelo.

Joshua blinked. "Hm? Oh, I'm just pondering about this scar and how it will affect me." he revealed.

"Chicks'll dig it, trust me. Chicks love tough guys." he responded flatly.

"I'm not sure how truthful that statement is, at least in regards to scars." 

Carmelo folded his arms and looked away. "Pft. At least that scar means you actually did somethin' today, it was excitin'. Me? Nuthin'. I just sat around and got another lecture. I wish I got to be in your place." he complained.

Joshua simply blinked in shock, taken aback by Carmelo's statement. Did...did he just say he'd rather be in my place? When he clearly knows I had gotten a scar? Joshua decided to shake off the comment and change the subject until he'd could give his roommate's statement more thought. 

Joshua chuckled and looked away. "I do wish that my first mission against the witches wasn't a failure though. All that time wasted and no kalar stone, I've no doubt disappointed Master Juan."

"Hey man, don't beat yourself up too bad. My mission was a failure too, Gaia got away, 'member?" 

"You still managed to stop the beast though, and that was the reason you rushed off to help anyway."

Carmelo seemed to flinch slightly at the word "help" before regaining his composure, putting his hands in his large pockets. "Yeah, well, Gaia got away and she's the ringleader. I could have this whole shit ended then and there but I let 'er get away."

"Come now Carmelo, she's the leader of the witches, the final boss if you will, even once you get strong enough to face her, you'll still need a full party." explained Joshua with a smile. "Don't forget, in chess, you must often deal with the pawns before confronting the king. The same applies to here, although it is theoretically possible to take down Gaia without dealing with the witches, it is more advantageous to take them out of play before going after the big, blue-haired fish."

Carmelo closed it eyes. "Whatever you say." he opened his eyes then walked towards his bed. "The reason you failed the mission was because Koala-head 'pparently blabbed about the kalar stone to one of Gaia's goons." he clenched his fist. "No, the real reason is because Spiky-hair McJackass didn't secure the stone because he was bein' horny in the middle of the mission!" he growled.

"Carmelo, I'm sure."

"No, he admitted it, he said he saw some broad then froze like a fuckin' deer and I doubt she used a spell! I wish that bitch blasted 'em, taught his dumbass a lesson! We're at a disadvantage because dude's thinking with his dick and not his head! We're in the middle of a goddamn war!" Carmelo barked, growing angrier and angrier.

"Calm down a bit. He probably wasn't truly aware of the gravity of this situation. We all fought Myung-Dai but he was a "fellow" psychic, not a witch. Today's events probably helped him realize that he needs to be in better control of his emotions." Joshua explained.

Carmelo sighed in frustration. "He better. He can jack off to the witches on his own time. These friggin' emotions is already gettin' our asses into trouble."

Joshua smirked. "Emotions are a great asset in war. They're what differentiates human soldiers from chess pieces. Emotions make us stronger than how we appear at face value. Say I'm a pawn. Now say Juan states that if I don't win, Gaia will brutally murder Zoe, whom I deeply love and care about. That will give me a drive to fight even harder. Now, even though I'm a pawn, I move more than simply one space in front of me, I may even be able to move backwards or to the sides, heck, I could even capture in more ways than simply diagonally!"

"Psh, you got it all ass-backwards. Emotions are what make us different from chess pieces, I'll give you that. Emotions are probably our worst enemy though, they make your soldiers unpredictable. Just imagine playing chess then suddenly your friggin' pawn frags you because they're sick of the way and "they love their family"." Carmelo spat. "Or say your rook freezes up and decides not to capture the queen because it has the hots for the enemy bishop, then what?"

Joshua threw his hands up with a smile, eyes closed. "You make a good argument. There are certainly pros as well as cons with emotions in regards to warfare. I, however, believe the benefits greatly outweigh the hazards."

Carmelo hopped into his bed and closed his eyes. "Then you crazy." A minute later, he lifted his head. "You mentioned yo' girl again, Zoe, was it? She must be some broad for you to keep mentionin' her. What's she like?"

Joshua smiled as he looked towards the ceiling. "Excellent question. Zoe is kind, always trying to help those in need. Caring, adventurous, generous..."

...

Out of nowhere, Zoe let out a loud sneeze that caused several of her sisters, such as Felicia, to jump. 

"Excuse me." apologized Zoe.

Haoi Mi smiled teasingly. "Aww, I think someone is talking about you."

Zoe blew a breath. Wonder who'd that be? Joshua? Mom? Dad? They all must be worried sick.

"Then I said, solemnly, "Time to burn this piece of art!" as me and Haoi Mi prepared to strip this world of that dashing, spiky-haired work of art!" Helene chronicled loudly and dramatically. "Then, suddenly,-!"

"Ugh, would you mind dialing it down a few notches?" asked Zoe. "Sorry if I'm being too frank but it's annoying."

Helene gasped, eyes wide. "Why you rude little-!"

Zoe squeezed into the bed next to her friend, Lillian. "Move over." she commanded with a smile as she gently shoved her, allowing the slender, blond which more space.

Lillian turned to Zoe. "Someone's rude tonight." she observed lowly.

"Sorry, sorry. I just really want to concentrate." Zoe said quickly.

Lillian blinked. "Concentrate? What fo-?" the English which was answered as she saw her friend laboriously lifted her personal grimoire and placed it on her lap after fishing through manaspace for it with her long hand.

Lillian smiled nervously as sweat began to collect on her forehead as she noticed Zoe earnestly flipping through the pages of the magical book. "Um are you sure you want to be using that, considering what happened yesterday and all."

Zoe waved a dismissive hand. "Oh relax." she said absently.

Lillian bit her lip. "I just don't want Gaia getting angry at you again for making the best out of the situation you're in."

Zoe turned to Lillian. "I'm not looking at summons." she sighed. "Heaven forbid I fail again. I'm just looking over potions, which do not in fact summon giant monsters if you don't do them correctly."

Lillian smiled. "Well that's good. Mind if I take a peak too?" she asked.

"Go right ahead, maybe our reading speed will sync up." Zoe responded.

"Hopefully." offered Lillian, studying the pages detailing how to brew potent magical potions and absorbing the information better than her more magically offensive oriented friend.

...

The PES had enjoyed their breakfast despite the previous day's mission being a failure. Conversations were still had, jokes were still told yet there was a general strive for improvement in the air. Almost every person desired to be the first person to claim a win against the witches. They were now in one of the castle's many courtyards, which gave beauty to the flying architectural spectacle which took elements from Greek as well as Renaissance and Gothic architecture. Although the castle was a spectacle, its beauty did not detract from its defensive capabilities, able to withstand powerful magic through its architecture alone. One example of this was the castle's massive reinforced concrete battlements.

The courtyard the boys were currently in was fairly large and its tall, tan walls featured Juan's emblem: a connected "J" and "C" surrounded by four, light blue squares. Juan informed them that this courtyard was called "Yard of Trials". The particular courtyard was designed to gauge a psychokinetic's prowess with a certain type of kinesis. As such, the courtyard featured a metal pit that spewed fire vertically thirteen feet into the air, a large water fountain, a large juniper tree that was placed far away from the fire pit, a dim battery-operated lava lamp in a corner, and a high-voltage system. 
Juan Insignia

Juan's Logo

Eziz stood near the fire pit of fire and closed his eyes. The fire felt like an extension of himself, like countless extra limbs. Instinctively, Eziz slowly brought the fire towards him before wrapping it around him with three feet between him and the ring of fire. He made the fire meet over his head, creating a flaming dome before he threw his arms out and the fire quickly covered him before seeping into his skin. Eziz sighed before walking away.

Carmelo frowned at the pyrokinetic from Turkmenistan. What a friggin' show off. He thinks he's the only one here who can play with fire? I can do that and so much more.

Carmelo turned up the volume of his headphones that surrounded his ears, the song song, Limit Break blaring loudly. He wasn't sure how well he'd be able to perform the technique since the flame in front of him was less tame than the flame of a lighter than he used before. He'd just have to try it. Carmelo narrowed his eyes and held his hand out, focusing on the shape he wanted the flame to take. Sure enough, the top part flame slowly began to split and it was soon transformed into eight, tentacle like tendrils. The teen then split them from the rest of the flame, converged them into the air then sent the flame sphere high into the sky before he snapped, causing it to explode into the kanji for fire.

Carmelo smirked. Heh. Not too shabby you-

"Hey, what the 'ecks the big idea!?" shouted Andy.

Carmelo turned to the shaggy-haired, lanky Australian nature-lover then looked up at the giant juniper tree he and Afwerki were in front of. Apparently, one of the embers from the explosion had touched the leaves of the tree and were spreading quickly. Andy squatted with his arm in front of him, the way his fingers were bent made his hand resemble a claw. His marsupial companion, Manic O. Koala, had adopted the same position at his feet. A torrent of water from the pool of the water fountain sprang up high into the air, splashing the leaves of the tall tear and dousing the young flames, extinguishing them from existence. The water fell down like rain around Afwerki, Andy and Manic.

Andy growled. "Do you have any care about life!?" he angrily barked.

Carmelo blinked, recalling that Andy witnessed him leaping out of the castle to save Manchester from Gaia's witches and beast. "No. Now will you shut up." He looked at the small, burned part of the tree. Good god, why are you such a fucking idiot?

Akmal himself was interested in his tree, tugging at ones of its grassy branches. He focused and managed to rip a bunch of leaves off, sending the fluttering towards the low-cut grass below. Akmal folded his arms and tapped his foot.

Juan Carlos floated towards his student, arms behind his back. "You're trying to utilize agrokinesis, the mental manipulation of plant life?"

Akmal sighed. "Yes sir but it isn't exactly panning out."

Juan smiled. "Do not fret, agrokinesis is extremely difficult to learn, let alone master."

Akmal smirked. "Better reason to keep trying then!" he said, pounding his fist into his open hand.

"That's the spirit, boy!" Juan thunderously laughed before floating away. He turned to Andy and Afwerki. Though those two are on their way.

Akmal looked up at the tree and saw a branch tear off, earning a cry of sorrow from Manic, Andy and Afwerki. Akmal winced as some of the tree violently shattered, leaving a large hole near its base. Akmal turned to see the culprit, a frowning Sebastion who was about three feet shorter than he was. The small child did not need to move a muscle or strain to use his psychokinesis. Sebastion also shoved a large portion of water onto the grass and caused the fire to turn in a different direction.

Akmal smirked. Oh sure, he's strong but he can't use any sort of finesse. All his attacks are big and he can only use psychokinesis, only moving things. That shows that little snot. 

As if Sebastion could read Akmal's thoughts, the young child turned towards the teen with an annoyed frown, causing Akmal to jump in fright. Sebastion smirked and walked away.

Luuk tilted his head at the lava lamp. "This is much too dim for my tastes." he looked keenly at the lamp, it slowly turning brighter until it was a pure, radiant white.

Afwerki, Manic and Andy were regarding the tree with interest.

Andy bitterly looked to the side. "Too bad this juniper's here's being used as a punching bag."

Afwerki sighed. "I agree my brother, that is unfortunate. I do love how even though the tree has been injured, it stands tall, not bowing for anyone and fighting until the very end, shrugging off anything that's thrown its way." Afwerki said with a smile.

Andy nodded. "That's nature for ya' mate. Even with the nastiest crap that ugly humans can throw at it, it will always rise up and stand tall because that's the way it's supposed to be." Andy turned to Afwerki. "You like nature?"

Afwerki nodded with a gleeful smile. "Oh yes, I love it. It's just so soothing and I love how it shows us what we are. There's just so much life in nature, it makes you feel so warm, you know, my brother?"

Andy smiled. "You said it."

"I really want my own green-house and zen garden. It just seems so peaceful, so grand. I can tend to and nurture so much life at once." Afwerki went on.

Andy's demeanor suddenly turned toxic. "Excuse me!? What the hell is wrong with you!? Do you think you're some type of god!?" Manic began to grow lowly at Afwerki.

"No, brother, mother nature was the one-"

"Then why are you locking them up in a cage!? You aren't their master, you pig!"

Kola was a ways away, vigorously and determinately training like she always did. She was punching the air quickly and furiously. Joshua, who was near her could feel the wave of strength, determination, and discipline emanating from each and every one of the young woman's punches. Joshua looked into the woman's cold, dark brown eyes. If the eyes were the windows to the soul, Kola's were foggy, not truly caring about what was happening in the outside world, solely focused on her training. The woman was disgusted in her inability to subdue Gaia's lackey the previous day and blamed the mission's failure on herself. She was training now, faster and faster, not caring how much she sweat or hurt because she knew that meant she was becoming stronger; stronger for the father which she endlessly loved. She would not stop training because he would not stop needing aid. The fog on the woman's windows cleared up somewhat and she turned to Joshua who was observing her fixedly. The woman gritted her teeth. Kola was usually exceptionally good about ignoring any distractions while training but the mere thought of Joshua had proven to distract her and she dreaded pondering how inefficient she would be now that the boy was actually with her.

"Go away." Kola commanded flatly, her eyes narrowing further.

Joshua chuckled. "Now Kola, that's no way to talk to your friends."

"I mean it." Kola responded. "I'm training."

"I can see that. Everyone else is training as well maybe the two of us could train together." Joshua offered.

Kola could not help but allow the beginning of a smirk to infiltrate her caramel-colored face. "You train with me? You're scrawny as a twig. I would snap you in half in an instant."

Joshua grinned as he put his hands in his pockets. "Oh really? Is someone forgetting who saved who from a North Vietnamese Prison, hmm?

Kola's slight smirk evaporated and she began to grow hot with embarrassment.

Joshua began to walk towards Kola with a smile. "Oh, I know what it is. You care about me, don't you? You're afraid that you'll hurt me-"

Joshua gasped, eyes wide as a restrained punch from Kola was thrown at the boy's gut. He made a small noise before he fell towards the ground, clutching his stomach with his eyes tightly closed. Th boy felt as if the insides of his stomach were shoved backwards and red hot flames shot from around it towards the rest of his torso. It took all the strength the teen could muster not to vomit right then and there as he rocked back and forth on the grass, staining his khaki pants.

"Good session." Kola mockingly complimented flatly before turning around. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach as she grew hotter. C-care about him? That'll put that out of his head. Kola quickly walked away from Joshua, hoping to be able to train in piece, her black, medium-length hair swishing in time with her steps.

At the base of the power-line Zack stood still, with his eyes closed and his head down. He was attempting to generate electricity without actually moving and his efforts were proving fruitless. I gotta' be able to do this, to make it up to all of them. It's because of me that the mission was a failure. Zack tried to feel the electricity in front of him. There ain't no use mopin' about it, I just gotta' make sure it don't happen again. Zack began to sense the particles, now he just had to figure out how to draw them towards himself. Come on! Think of something you dolt! In his mind, the face of the beautiful witch from the other day appeared and she softly said his name. Zack opened his eyes and raised his hands high, bolts of electricity striking him and a large swath of electricity appeared between his two hands. Juan turned towards the psychic as he walked around the courtyard. Good, you are making yourself useful. I hope to have no failures at the hands of your teenage lust again. Juan turned to another student who caught his eye. Hm?

Juan watched with interest as Gojo Hashizawa tried his hand at the training. The boy caused a torrent of water to shoot up from the fountain towards the tree then caused individual droplets to pierce through the tree before using his psychokinesis to rip a large branch off. He tossed the branch towards the generator Zack was near, causing it to explode after being exposed to the electricity that Zack was controlling. Gojo pointed at the faraway lamp then made it shatter into countless pieces. Gojo brought tilted the flame and made another more water shoot up, creating steam.

Juan smiled. Hm, interesting. Although he is sourly lacking in the ability to make his psychokinesis undergo nature shifts, that ferocity and power simply cannot be ignored. The powerful psychic stroked his goatee with a smile as he turned to Afwerki, then Andy and Manic, then to Gojo. Yes, yes. I think they will be perfect for today's mission.

...

The ten witches were between two rows of tall evergreens that dwarfed even their ten foot tall mother, Gaia. The space in between the two rows of trees were wide, allowing Gaia to stand six feet in front of them. The area of the forest that the witches were in was dark yet still bright enough to clearly see Gaia. The witches were all seated on a long brown log. Xaviera threw the occasionally black ant that walked across the log into her formidable, young maw. Lillian had found the natural seat highly uncomfortable and she feared that once she stood up, she'd find a large number of splinters decorating her rear.

Gaia clapped her hands together. "So, let's begin today's lesson shall we? Yesterday, as you already are aware, Isabella and Felicia created a binding hex that sealed the kalar stone, preventing anyone, which or otherwise, to access the dreadul rock. Hexes and their counterparts, charms are powerful tools that every which should know. Today, I am informing you all how to use them. Yesterday, I simply gave a quick instruction to Felicia and Isabella and luckily they were able to pull off the hex without difficulty. To begin, I shall explain what exactly hexes and charms are. Hexes and charms could be said to be similar to potions but hexes and charms are typically used on items and the effects are usually longer-lasting. Charms usually enhance attributes of something while hexes are usually used in order to cause pain, mischief, or misery. Hexes and charms tend to be harder, or at least longer to make then potions and require a "base" such as a rat to execute. Advantages of hexes and charms include being able to control its duration more than potions, being stronger, and having stackable effects. Disadvantages include the fact that they are harder to weave than potions are to create and the fact that they tend to leave witches drained. Although charms and hexes generally are longer-lasting than potions, weaker potions are shorter-lasting than weak hexes and charms while stronger potions typically last longer than strong hexes and charms. This afternoon, I want you all to look into the charm sections of your grimoires and use a jump height charm on one of your sisters." Gaia smiled. "I have something to show you that I just know you'll find exciting. Follow me."

The witches looked at one another in confusion before they rose and followed after Gaia in a single-file line. The girls followed Gaia until they found themselves in a wide, moderately lit part of the forest that was slightly cold wet. Bisera looked up; the sky was white with overcast. Gaia had stopped walking and turned around to face the witches.

"Okay my daughters, you may turn around." said Gaia.

The witches, did so, gasping at what they saw. Laying on their own cinder blocks were ten brooms made out of dark mahagony wood, the bristles were a bright yellow. They looked identical to the brooms Felicia saw in the shed a few days prior, albeit vigorously dusted, They began to walk towards it once they heard a sharp. "Ah, ah ah!"

Ankur suddenly dropped down from the trees, behind the cinder blocks with his fists on his hips. "Not so fast, ladies." Xaviera folded her arms and growled lowly at the man,

"Before you can fly, you must understand how flying works. As I am a familiar, I cannot fly using a broomstick but I do understand the mechanics of flying and therefore, I am fit to inform you how it works. Recall that you all collect mana in your bodies. You all have a finite amount of mana already inside of you but you also have the option of collecting the mana in your environment, using your bodies as sort of a magical beacon. Your jarks are used to more easily collect and control that mana that flows through your body. Only the strongest witches are able to use powerful magic without the aid of jarks." Ankur explained.

Lillian looked away, frowning annoyedly. I think I need a good ten of those jark things.

"You convert the mana in your body into the form of the spell you wish to utilize then send it out if your body, with your wand serving as a medium for the spell to manifest into the outside world. Only a select few witches can cast spells without the use of wands. Any witches can use mana without using a wand  but only in the form of hexes and charms." Ankur concluded.

Gaia began to speak. "Flying on a broomstick for the first time usually proves extremely difficult for witches. Flying on a broomstick requires a witch to collect mana through her body as if she is casting a spell but she then must direct the mana from her body onto the broomstick. It is similar in concept to using a wand to cast spells but differs drastically in execution. A witch sends mana through her wand for only a brief moment, to the point where it's barely noticed but when flying a broom, witches must constantly exert mana on the broom to stay aloft. Any broomstick can theoretically work but it's been found that in practice, anything other than magically treated mahogany wood tends to not hold mana very well. It is ill-advised to use the mana in your body to fly for flying on a broom tends to take up a lot of mana quickly so even the strongest witches will run out of mana easily. Luckily, this is one of the only types of magic where you will not become drained if you use the mana around you so to fly, you'll need to collect the mana around you in your body then send it into your broom. The higher and faster you fly, the exponentially harder it becomes to collect the mana around you so beginner witches should only go about ten feet high and ten miles per hour. As stated before, flying on a broomstick requires intense concentration which although is second nature to seasoned flyers, is a nightmare to rookie ones. Broken concentration can result in your broom combusting or rapidly falling towards the ground to always stay focused on sending mana to your broom. Another thing to remember when trying to fly a broomstick is moderation. Too little mana won't allow you to fly at all while too much mana, depending on how it's administered, will either violently repel you from your broom or violently destroy your broom."

Afisa blinked. "Are you done?"

Gaia blinked and scratched her head. "Why, yes. I am indeed f-"

Excitedly, the girls rushed forward, knocking the tall Ankur ungracefully to ground. "Come to either me or your mother if you have any questions!" he shouted as his death-cry.

Felicia walked to the second-to last broomstick on the left, it seeming to call to her. She stepped backwards, her loose fist at her chest as Xaviera snatched up the broom that was taller than her with an excited laugh.

Felicia moved her hand meekly towards the feral girl. "Um, excuse me...?" she began quietly.

Xaviera turned towards her. "You lucky me have good ears, insect voice!"

Felicia recoiled, hurt. "Um, well I was wondering if I could have that broom..."

Xaviera's eyes darkened in anger. "No! Me see flystick first!"

"Do you mean broom?" Felicia asked.

"Broom, flystick, it's stick that make you fly so whatever!" Xaviera snapped. "The answer is no! I grabbed it first!"

"But I was really hoping I could use it." explained Felicia as she bent down with her hands on her knees to become face-to-face with the prepubescent girl. "I felt...like that particular broomstick was calling to me. I believe it's the broomstick I was using a few days ago."

"Well if it was calling you, you should ran quicker! That what you get for not waiting turn!" Xaviera shouted.

Felicia turned around to Isabella. Isabella sighed and stepped forward.

"Come on Xav, just get another one." Isabella sighed in annoyance, fists on her hips.

"No, why I have to give it to her!? Just because she pretty!?" Xaviera growled, with a hint of whininess.

"No, it's not because she's pretty, it's because she asked nicely and there are other brooms you could use." Isabella clarified.

"No! I get it first! It is because she pretty!"

"Xaviera, want to do this the easy way or hard way?" Isabella darkly threatened.

"I said I keeping the br-" Xaviera was cut off by Isabella blasting the young which away with a torrent of water, which caused Felicia's face to twist in horror as her eyes widened and she covered her mouth with her hands.

"Sorry!" Felicia apologized to her downed sister with an uncharacteristically loud voice.

"She only help you cause you flower! I'll be flower too then you no get to take from me! You see!" Xaviera bitterly shouted to Felicia. Felicia bit her bottom lip with guilt.

Broom in hand, Afisa leapt into the air and quickly put her broom in between her long legs, sandwiching the brown stick tightly between them. She closed her eyes concentrated on collecting the mana in the environment, directing it towards her body then directing it to her broom but she didn't have the time as she soon found herself on the ground with a slap, in a kneeling position. She turned to Bisera who had begun to speak.

"Try adding mana to your broom before you hop on it." Bisera offered. The Macedonian witch closed her eyes as she felt the mana in the environment flow from the ground into the bottom of her feet. Once she thought she felt it travel out of her hand, she move the broom stick in between her brown legs and jumped before promptly coming back down. Bisera was not discouraged however. If at first you don't succeed, try try again.

After retrieving another broomstick, grumbling as she did so, Xaviera tried her hand and flying. She tried forcing the mana in the environment to her broomstick but found herself being shoved back towards a tree as her broomstick flew in the opposite direction, crashing into a tree as she did so.

Isabella walked over to Ankur, broomstick in hand. "Yo', Ankur?" she asked.

The familiar was sitting on one of the cinder blocks that the broomsticks had laid on. He was observing the witches' attempts at flight with keen interest. Once Isabella had spoken to him, he turned towards her. "Hm?" he asked.

"Why do I gotta' learn how to fly with a broomstick? I mean, I know how to fly already." Isabella asked, hands behind her head.

Ankur smiled at the teenage witch. "Excellent question, I'm glad you asked, it shows that you are actually thinking over the practicality of what you are being taught which shows active learning." 

Isabella smiled. "Aw, please." she said, slightly embarrassed at the handsome man's praise.

Ankur's face adopted its usual slightly stern expression. "To answer your question, although you can fly without a broomstick and doing so comes more naturally to you, flying with a broomstick is more advantageous to you? To answer how precisely, I'd have to know exactly the mechanics of your flight which I hate to admit but I do not for you are a unique witch."

Isabella's face darkened as she hung her head.

"Which isn't a bad thing." Ankur quickly said. "Anyway, even though I'm not exactly sure how your flying works, I have a hunch. Let me ask you a question; can you use magic while flying?" 

Isabella began to think. "Not really." she answered. She had never given it much thought but once she reflected, she never could use magic while flying, at least not before growing exhausted, which she dreaded.

"Okay then. If you master flying while on a broom then you'll be able to cast spells while flying. I understand that it will take some getting used to utilizing the broom over your own abilities over flight but that is even more reason to begin practicing right away." Ankur informed.

Isabella smiled. "You got it Ank!" she said. The witch walked away from Ankur and held her broom vertically. She squinted, focusing on sending the mana in the environment around her into her body then into the broomstick. Before she knew it, the broom very audibly snapped in half. "Shit." the witch cursed lowly.

Helene and Haoi Mi weren't able to get into the air at all, greatly annoying the two.

With a wide smile on her face, Zoe slowly rose in the air. On her first try, she had managed to apply just the right amount of mana to the broom. She slowly rose higher and higher. All the witches slowly turned to Zoe who was now twenty-two feet high. Zoe blinked. Wait, how do I move this th- Next thing Zoe knew, she was plummeting to the ground and landed with a thud.

"I'm okay." Zoe groaned, dazed.

Amalija worriedly looked at Zoe as she held her own broomstick in her hand. 

Gaia walked towards her purple-haired daughter with a smile. "Well? Are you going to try your hand at flying?"

Amalija looked away. "I probably won't be able to." she said. She slowly positioned the broomstick between her legs and quickly rose five feet into the air, floating gently. Amalija gave a shriek. "Oh this must be a mistake! Beginner's luck I suppose!" Amalija chuckled nervously. She hopped off of her broom. "I'm sure things won't go so well the second time." Amalija hopped onto her broom again with the same effect. Eyes filled with dread, she slowly moved backwards, then forwards, then up two feet, then down two feet. "How is this happening!?" Amalija asked, fraught with worry.

Gaia beamed. "That's wonderful Amalija! Not many witches can begin flying so easily! You must be a natural indeed!"

Amalija began to sweat. Oh why can I do this so easily!?

Gaia walked towards Lillian who was struggling with her broom. Lillian's eyes were shut tightly, trying to force mana into the broom. She then opened her eyes, leapt high into the air with her broom and...came crashing down onto the dirt. Lillian sighed. She tried again but fell to the ground.

Frowning, Lillian turned to Gaia. "Isn't there some beginner broom I can use?"

"Well, there is a starter broom but you should keep at it with a standard broom."

"I've tried dozens of times already, I'm just not getting it."

Gaia huffed. "Well, your sisters aren't getting it ei-" Gaia stopped and the two looked upwards at the laughing Felicia who was twenty-five feet in the air, flying sixty miles per hour and doing loop-de-loops, u-turns and barrel rolls. Gaia sighed and pulled out a broom that was a little more than half the size of the other brooms. She threw it on the ground and the broom immediately floated a foot off of the ground. "There, your starter broom."

Lillian hopped onto the broom and immediately sprang five feet into the air, Lillian slowly began to fly forward. "Thank you Gaia!" she called, excited despite the slow speed.

Gaia sighed, annoyance on her face. "Anytime my daughter." I just wish you wouldn't sell yourself so short.

...

After lunch, the PES had followed Juan and Kola and found themselves in a large, pure white recreational room. The boys looked around in wonder at the lavish room. The first thing that the PES noticed that distinguished the room from the rest of the castle was the simple fact that it possessed fluffy white carpet, contrasting with the cold, hard floor of virtually everywhere else in the castle.  Near the top wall of the room was an angel fountain with a conch, Coca-Cola continuously spewing from the small angel's conch. Near the fountain was a high-tech popcorn maker with so many buttons that Eziz couldn't help but wonder if half of them were for show. Along one horizontal wall of the room was an air hockey table while the other wall possessed a ping-pong table. In the middle of the room was a long, black, leathery semi-circular couch that faced a Samsung eighty-eight inch curved Ultra HD LED flat-screen TV that was hooked up to a Playstation 4, Apple TV and a Blu-Ray/VCR player hybrid. In the glass cabinet under the television, several game systems such as a Nintendo 64, a Playstation 3, and a Nintendo Wii U could clearly be seen. The two signs that proved that the room was indeed a part of Juan's castle was the white coloration and Juan's emblem that adorned each wall.

Joshua smirked. "So this is how we can spend our downtime? This is fine by me."

Akmal whistled at the flat-screen television before turning towards the Coca-Cola. "This must have cost a fortune! I knew Juan must be loaded but-!"

Kola folded her arms. "But you didn't know he'd waste it spoiling you. Yes, shocking, I know."

Gojo grinned. "Awwww yeah! This is happenin'!" he cried.

Sebastion frowned. Stuck here with a bunch of rowdy teenagers? I'll opt to spend my free time in my room, thank you very much!

Carmelo plopped onto the leather couch with a sigh. "So we get to crash here when we need a break? I'm down with that."

Luuk regarded the group warily, his eyelids half closed. Being generous to us is well-meaning, I just fear that this room will breed sloth.

Juan waved a hand. "Do not get comfortable just yet, I have a mission for some of you." At this, some of the PES became attentive, not allowing themselves to fully relax.

So suddenly that Zackari, Akmal and Afwerki jumped in fright, a woman burst through the door of the room then halted. She doubled over, panting as he placed her hands on her knees. She was sweating profusely and wheezing. The PES curiously regarded the short redheaded woman with rectangular glasses. She was wearing a long white lab coat.

Juan raised a hand with a soft smile. "There you are."

The woman quickly rose, the side of her flat hand on her forehead in salute. "Lucy Oliver, reporting for duty!" she shouted.

Juan walked towards the woman. "I'm glad you made it, so you'll be working with me today?"

"Yes, Master Carlos sir! I was informed that you wanted me so I sprinted here as fast as I could. I would never refuse a summon from you." Lucy explained.

Juan smiled. "Terrific." Juan offered his hand to Lucy. "It's a pleasure to be working with you Lucy and please, call me Juan."

Lucy quickly accepted the elderly psychic's had and vigorously shook it. "The pleasure's mine Juan! I just want you to know how much I admire you and how much of an honor it is to be working with you!" she exclaimed.

Juan waved a hand with a sly smile. "Oh please, you're too much." Juan slipped his arm around the woman's waist, sending a pleasurable shiver down her spine. He began to walk with the woman. "You're well accustomed to the energy of the kalar stone, correct? So accustomed that you could, say, convert the energy into a beam to completely destroy a powerful magical barrier?"

Lucy pondered as she put a hand to her chin. "I should be able to but if you really want an expert on that field, you should really talk to my superior, Morri-"

"We don't need Morrison." Juan interrupted with a smile. I'm going to give you some information and I'll need you to find the coordinates of a forest."

Joshua looked at Kola, who was staring at her father and the woman known as Lucy with the same blank expression that she typically adopted. Despite her outward appearance, Joshua could feel the rage oozing from her. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing." Kola said curtly. Knowing the boy would not let up until she caved in, the young woman walked away to get a glass cup to fill with Coca-Cola. She looked at Juan's smiling face with a frown before she accidentally shattered her glass. Kola turned to Joshua. "Fine, I'll tell you if it's so important." Kola folded her arms. "Due to the scale of this conflict, my father needs the assistance of many scientists in order to carry out his selfless plans."

"And that angers you?"

Kola clenched her fist tightly. "It angers me because I'm not all-powerful. If I was, I could serve my father to the fullest and he wouldn't need help from all these stupid scientists. All these scientists just prove to show how useless I truly am."

"Whoa, whoa! Hold the phone, rewind the record a smidge, hmm? Useless? Kola, you're not useless just because you can't help Juan with everything. Everyone has things that they don't excel at, all we can do is improve on what we can while we have faith that our friends and allies will cover our backs in regards to our shortcomings." Joshua offered. 

Kola's fist began to shake. "My father isn't a normal person, I must help him as much as humanly possible, anything less is unacceptable. My failure yesterday was disgusting, if I'm just going to be dead weight for my father, I don't deserve to be here. I'm going to take your advice and improve. Improve as much as I can with the abilities that I can improve upon so I can be the best for my father that I can possibly be. I'll make sure that the next time I see one of Gaia's minions, I'll be able to snap their disgusting necks in an instant." she said darkly.

Kola began to walk towards the exit of the large room.

"Kola, wait!" called Joshua.

Kola whipped her head around. "No, I have to train. I must get stronger." said Kola before pushing the door open and storming out, her soul filled with determination.

Joshua put her hands in his pockets. While true, Kola did listen to and take his advice, Joshua felt there was something decidedly wrong with the way she did so.

Soon, the boys were brought to attention by Juan's voice, some more than others. Juan was standing next to Lucy on the right side of the flat-screen television. On the television was a 3D image of the rotating planet. A sky-blue dot appeared near the eastern coast of South Africa.

"Attention!" said Juan in a loud voice before her closed his eyes and cleared his throat. "As you all know, yesterday's mission was a failure so we must work today to gain more ground. The mission for today is to go to a forest in Eastern South Africa. This is not an ordinary forest however, this is a forest that our enemy, Gaia is quite fond of and as a result, she uses it as a base. The name of this forest is Primeval Forest and it is our job today to storm it. Deep in this forest is what appears to be a rare water lily, Nymphaea thermarum, the world's smallest water lily and its rarest."

Afwerki and Andy both gasped once Juan revealed the binomial nomenclature for the lily, causing him to smirk.

"The lily however, is a magical lookalike that will be extremely hard to find. The reason that it is hidden so well is because it falling into the wrong hands will prove disastrous to Gaia for it will allow us PES to detect witches more easily, once we figure out exactly what its cell data mean that is. The second part of the mission is the more action oriented component as it involves finding the largest tree in the forest which serves as its control tower then destroying it, stripping the forest of its magic and making it so Gaia effectively cannot use it as a base." The old man put his hands behind his back as the scree slowly zoomed towards the dot. "Andy, Manic and Afwerki will be tasked with finding the Lily while Gojo is tasked with destroying the tree."

Gojo sprang up from the couch, pumping his fist in the air. "Fuck yeah! This dope as hell teach!"

Jua smirked. "Just promise me you won't screw this up."

"I promise you, yo'!" replied Gojo.

Luuk raised his eyebrows in horror. Just what in god's name is teacher thinking sending this bufoon into battle?!

Sebastion smirked. I think Juan is off of his rocker today.

Afwerki smiled and turned to Andy. "Did you hear that, brother? We get to explore a forest for our mission today!" he said giddily.

Andy folded his arms with a frown. "Yeah, a magical forest. I wouldn't be surprised if the leaves turned sharp as swords then went straight through our necks." Manic grunted in annoyance.

"Remember, we must remain careful in this forest for it is a domain of Gaia. There is no telling what she will use to try to kill you so to be to be on the safe side, assume everything."

Andy lowered his eyelids. "See? Told ya'."

"Lucy shall use the energy from our kalar stone to create a piercing beam, enter the coordinates of Primeval Forest, then fire it at the forest, shattering the barrier and allowing us access for a brief time." Juan explained. He then waved a had as he walked towards the door, Lucy following right behind him. "Come, you three."

As Juan walked down the hall, a gleeful smile spread on his face. Andy assumed it was due to the attractive woman at his side.

...

Gaia was walking happily through a windy valley, observing her daughters' attempts at weaving the jump height charm with a smile when she stopped cold in her tracks. Her halt wasn't so much due to a chill in her body as having a inexplicable hollow feeling. In that strange feeling, Gaia also felt a tinge of familiarity that made her uneasy.One of the barriers that she had erected had been damaged and she knew exactly where. Gaia walked over to Bisera and Afisa with such lack of speed as to not frighten her two daughters.

Gaia spoke to them with a smile. "Afisa, Bisera?" the two witches turned to her. "I have a favor  I have to ask of you. Could you two scope out a forest of mine to make sure everything is all right? This could be an excellent opportunity to practice your magic." Gaia's smile dissolved. "I must warn you, I'm half-expecting PES to be there. Are you okay with this?"

Bisera beamed. "Yes mother. Will there be lots of sunlight?" she asked.

Gaia nodded. "There sure will, my daugter."

"Then I'm good to go!" exclaimed Bisera.

Afisa smiled. "And I'll make sure little Ms. Sunshine doesn't get into any trouble."

Gaia smiled. "Then it's settled." Gaia opened a white rectangular portal and ushered her daughters to walk through it. After the witches had walked through the portal and it dissipated, Gaia began walking in the direction she had came.

As Gaia walked, Lillian halted her bitterly and regarded her bitterly. First Haoi Mi and Helene, now Afisa and Bisera. It isn't a coincidence, she's strategically sending people that share a puopo not into battle to ensure the most power. Feh, look at her! She's always going on about how cold Juan is and how he's nothing but a tactician with no care towards the PES. Gaia's nothing but a hypocrite! 

Gaia noticed her daughter's gaze but simply chose to ignore it with an annoyed sigh.

The chilly, familiar feeling Gaia had kept gnawing at her and she felt she would have to deal with the disturbance personally...

Chapter Fifteen: Psychic AssualtEdit

Andy, Manic and Afwerki landed on the ground after being sent via reverse-tractor beam. Andy shut his eyes tightly with his hand on his head as he staggered slightly.

"Oh, my head! I don't think I'm ever going to get used to that thing." Andy moaned. The teenager with shaggy hair opened his eyes slightly and hobbled over to a tree before he leaned on it with a sigh and closed his eyes once more, attempting to regain his bearings. Manic quickly bounded towards his friend before stopping and looking up at Andy with concern.

Afwerki smiled. "Well, at least you're in one piece brother." he offered.

Andy groaned. "I'm not too sure about that. It feels like my mind is split in four."

Afwerki began to walk towards him. "Well, let me see if I can fix that."

Andy quickly raised a hand, opening his eyes with an annoyed expression. "I'm fine now, thank you." he said as Manic jumped with glee. Afwerki folded his arms with a slightly hurt expression.

Afwerki stepped back and looked upwards. "Well, I'm glad you're all right, brother. Look around you, this forest is beautiful!" Afwerki whimsically exclaimed. 

Andy stepped forward, off of the tree and looked around. Indeed, from the healthy, green leaves streamed in radiant, afternoon light. Birds and insects could be heard in the trees. A brown squirrel scuttled across the black dirt path which a bird then swooped down to in order to evict a worm from his home. The boy could faintly hear running water but despite his exceptional hearing skills, he could not pinpoint where exactly it originated. Into the boy's nostrils flooded the smell of wet dirt and leaves.

Feeling in his habitat, the wild psychic smiled. "Yeah, this is more like it mate. I'm in the wilderness, right where I belong. Not cooped up in some stone flying castle and not running around in some stupid English city or its sewers." he sighed. "Yeah mate, I could stay here forever."

"I'm sorry to say brother, but we have a mission to complete and we should get going soon." Afwerki softly warned.

Andy folded his arms and frowned. "You sound just like The Man, always rushing forward without a care towards appreciating the beauty of natural life, too busy having its head stuck in his own arse. Live a little Afwerki, I thought you were better than the rest."

Afwerki nervously bit his lip. He wanted to stay in favor with his brother, he did not much mind if people did not like him but it really hurt him if people stopped liking him. He also desired for as much friends as possible and thought it imperative that Andy like him, seeing as they were allies in a war.

Afwerki tapped his foot. He then smiled. "Seeing as we're not that embroiled in this conflict yet, I suppose we can stop to smell the roses."

Andy smiled once more. "Now that's what I like to hear."

Afwerki folded his arms. "I must say though, we are still in a forest of Gaia's. We should stay on our toes in case we run into any witches." he warned.

Andy blinked. He frowned as he folded his arms. "I forgot this was on of that imposter's forests. That kind of puts a damper on my mood...somewhat. I have to say, Gaia sure knows how to make 'em."

Afwerki nodded before looking at Manic. "Say, brother, where is Gojo?" he asked.

Suddenly, between the two was bright pink beam. A second after it appeared, it was good and there stood a kneeling Gojo who quickly rose and wiped the dirt off of his bleached jeans with a frown.

"Speak of the devil." Andy said lowly.

"Ha, the devil wishes he was bad as my ass!" Gojo hooted.

Andy raised an eyebrow. "Oh really, I bet you wouldn't say that near Luuk." he challenged.

Gojo laughed. "I ain't afraid of no blondie the pastor! Imma' scream it in that bitch's face!"

Andy lowered his eyelids slightly. "Oh really, well, I encourage you to do so when we get back to the castle."

Gojo walked over to Andy and aggressively ruffled his hair with a devious smile. "Will do my fucked-up-hairdo buddy ol' pal." Gojo heard Manic growling and dismissively kicked the small mammal, sending him tumbling a few feet to the side, causing Andy in turn to growl.

Gojo turned and saw his black, MST Motus Motorcycle leaning against a tree. The motorcycle  was somewhat lean and had tires of a medium thickness and a small windshield that tilted backwards.

Gojo gave a toothy smile as he exclaimed. "Sweet, the old man sent my ride!" Gojo ran over to his motorcycle and hopped on it before turning around. "So you two dweebs go look for your lil' flower while I got them them witches!" Gojo said, licking his lips as he said "witches". "Smell ya' later." Gojo turned took the tumbler lock key for his motorcycle out of the pocket of his leather jacket and inserted it before turning it. The vehicle roared into the life and without a moment to pause, Gojo revved the engine and roared down the path, revealing that he had removed the muffler. He quickly turned left on a fork in path, disappearing from the trio's view.

Andy sneered. "Let's go." he said before walking the direction opposite Gojo went. Afwerki began to follow him. As Andy walked, he noticed Afwerki smiling at Manic.

Andy signed. "Don't waste your time. The only human Manic likes is me...well, Kola too but-" Andy halted as he saw Manic stop and allowed Afwerki to pet him with glee.

Afwerki looked up and smiled. "He seems to like me just fine, brother."

Andy lowered his eyelids. "I suppose he does." The two continued to walk down the trail, in search of their rare water lily.

Meanwhile, Gojo was barreling down the forest, the trees simply a brown blur as he smiled deviously. He licked his lips lustfully, practically being able to smell the witches in the forest air. This shit gon' be fun as hell! I haven't gotten pussy in a hot minute so I know today gon' be a poppin'-ass day!

...

Bisera and Afisa were teleported to the forest two minutes prior. The forest was brightly lit with the orange light of the sun due to the trees's branches not being over the path. Bisera was in absolute joy twirling giddily in the sunlight as she made her way down the path. Afisa couldn't help but smile as well, the forest just had a soothing quality to it. Despite this, she was prepared to fight the PES.

This preparation is what immediately made Afisa go rigid when she heard the roar of an engine in the distant. The witch gripped her wand and turned to Bisera who already had her wand out with a nod.

"I can feel it, he's coming fast." explained Bisera, still smiling despite the situation. Despite Afisa's tenseness, she was slightly eased due to her sister's refusal to be scared.

Afisa looked behind her and sure enough, there was someone on a motorcycle, heading towards them.

Afisa sneered. "It's a PES. I can tell because he's riding a motorcycle in this sacred place and because of his face...it's so ugly." she said, taking note of the teenage boys pale skin, small, pig-like eyes, small, very thin lips and his slight chubby-ness.

Bisera was half-daydreaming, thinking about how this forest would be the perfect place to live. The witch snapped to attention. "Aw, I think he's kind of cute." she said with a smile. "He reminds me of a bear."

"Bears don't ride motorcycles Bisera!" exclaimed Afisa in exasperation, the PES growing closer and closer. Afisa's muscles tensed further as she bent her legs and barred her teeth. Her brown wand slipped out of the witch's black sleeve and into her slender fingers. Afisa gripped it tightly and pointed it threateningly at the quickly approaching PES.

Despite being less terse than her fellow witch, Bisera as well had prepared herself, keenly looking at the teenage psychic with her large, brown eyes and wrapping her hand around her wand, holding the brown stick at her side. 

It seemed to be a mere instant before the psychic was in front Afisa. The witch gasped, shocked how abrupt the boy seemed to appear in front of her. He was simply standing there, balancing the motorcycle whose engine was idle by standing.

Afisa shook her head, this was no time to be dazed. The mana in the environment traveled through the teenage witch's body in an instant, making the euphoric, orgasmic pleasure of casting a spell only last for a brief moment. "Fire!" she shouted, sending a ball of flame out of the tip of her wand and towards the member of the PES' face which was not more than four feet away from her hand.

Afisa's eyes widened as the teenager quickly lifted a clenched fist and the ball of flame pathetically dissipated. Afisa blinked in shock. The boy bit his lip and said something lowly. Afisa however could not understand a word that slithered out of his mouth, it sounded like inane babbling, a strange sputtering of sounds that could not even accurately be described as vowels or consonants, Afisa and Bisera believed it sounded akin to what they thought an extra-terrestrial sounded like. Despite the sheer incomprehensiveness of the language, if it could accurately be referred to as such, it had a strangely alluring quality to it.

Regardless of what was said, the dumbfounded Afisa took note of the teenager's sly facial expression and the swagger he possessed as he approached her. Afisa's heart began to race as he grew closer and closer, biting his lips as he did so. The witch took a few steps backwards before stopping. The boy was right in front of her now and she could smell musk and Old Spice. The teenage boy was about a bit shorter than Afisa. She grew hot with anger as the teen grabbed the side of her face with his sweaty, meaty hands and tilted his towards his own face. He said something as his beady eyes gazed longingly into Afisa's narrow ones. Afisa couldn't help but felt gross all over. She desperately wanted to jump into the hot springs.

Afisa turned at the sound of her friend's voice, breaking free of the PES' wet grasp. Surprising the Russian which was the fact that Bisera's voice carried a quality she seldom heard from her: sternness.

"Hey mister!" Bisera began, hands on her hips. "That's not how you treat a lady! At least ask for her name before you begin to touch her face like that.!"

Afisa gave an exasperated little smile. Bisera, he can't understand you and I doubt this creep would very much care if he could.

The teenage boy simply looked at Bisera in annoyance before aggressively swiping his hand, sending the witch flying through the air, crashing into a tree half a second later then sliding to the ground with a pained groan.

Afisa growled and turned to the boy who in turn turned to her, as if Bisera was never even there. Anger gripped the girl's face, twisting it into an ugly scowl that the PES seemed to enjoy. "Eat this! Icera!" At her shout, a large spear made of teal-colored ice shot out of her wand and hurtled itself towards the PES member.

The boy was not quick enough to move out of the way of the sharp icicle. The boy stepped to the side, sending the icicle in his stomach, to the right of his belly-button. The psychic grunted as the icicle's journey suddenly halted. A second later, the icicle was hurtling over their heads and out of the area. The psychic looked down at his wound which was more shallow than intended. The was a hole and a bloody splotch where the icicle had pierced. He gave a 'tsk' and covered the wound with his right hand. He reached his left had into the right-side pocket of his black leather jacket and took out what appeared to be a handgun with a long knife attached to it.

The psychic quickly hopped onto his motorcycle and in an instant he was upon Afisa. With motions that appeared as a blur, the psychic brought the blade across Afisa's face, causing her to scream out in pain as one, two, three lines of stinging, sharp pain were swiftly carved into her face. The was a cut that split her face diagonally, a horizontal cut on her forehead and a vertical cut across the left side of her face. Warm blood began to ooze out of the thick cuts. Afisa squinted, trying to fight against the searing pain while gripping her wand. She creamed out as a deafening sound thundered from the gun and a bullet pierced her hand, creating a fine hole through. It so over come with pain was Afisa that she dropped her wand and fell to the dirt path. The psychic in turn rode fourteen feet away, smiling.

"You have to get up Afisa!" said Bisera, five feet away, on a tree as she held out her wand which was glowing as it.

Afisa gasped softly as a flower manifested above her head and she felt a sudden and refreshing wind blow over her. Despite feeling this wind, her clothes and hair did not move accordingly. She could feel the stinging of her face quickly fade into nothingness and she felt an odd tingling sensation on her left hand which had been shot through. Afisa looked at her hand and to her amazement it was hole as if nothing had ever happened to it. The witch touched her face with wide eyes and discovered that it was smooth as always. You're the best Afisa. At her friend's behest, Afisa rose defiantly after retrieving her dropped wand.

Bisera frowned at the psychic who was on his motorcycle. The next thing she knew, her head was slammed roughly against the tree, sending bright stars into her vision as her head began to ring acutely, filling her with waves of pain. Despite this, the witch barred her teeth with tightly shut eyes gripped her wand tightly as if her life depended on it. She didn't bother using a cure spell on herself for she felt Afisa would need more help.

Sure enough, there was the psychic speeding towards her sister. "Oh no you don't!" she threatened as she pointed her wand at the psychic, swaying from the pain. "Leafo!" she cried, sending a torrent of razor sharp leaves from her wand towards the boy. The PES crossed his arms in front of his face, seemingly creating a shield due to his lack of cuts.  He held out his right hand Bisera was assaulted with a powerful blast that widened her eyes and knocked her into the tree. The wind knocked out of her, the witch couldn't help but weakly drop her wand. She slid limply to the ground while sobbing softly, not able to ignore the pain that assaulted her abdomen.

"Bisera!" cried Afisa. She turned to the sneering PES with a growl and a shout. She gripped her wand with both of her hands and held it front of her. She'd make him pay dearly for hurting her friend. "Fira!" she yelled, her voice oozing with rage as a giant ball of flame hurtled towards the PES. However, right after noticing the witch point her wand at him, the PES quickly rode away in a circular, ended up behind the witch. 

Afisa's left eye twitched. Just how in the heck can he move so fast and with so much control?! Is he using his psychokinesis to- Afisa slowly turned around but before she could finish rotating her head, she was flung fifteen feet into the air. Instead of falling, Afisa simply levitated in the air due to the teenager's powers. Afisa gulped as she took note of the boy's grin. She began to sweat, her mind running itself ragged at all the ways the psychic could torture her. She imagined being cut to ribbons, having her body pumped full of lead, having her neck popped off, being run over by a motorc-....Afisa grew red as her legs felt a tad bit more exposed than usual. The skirt portion of her dress had been lifted up via psychokinesis, revealing her black frilly panties with a white bow to the forest. Steam practically billowed out from the witch's ears. "Fira!" the witch yelled, knocking the distracted teen from his motorcycle via a ball of flame. Afisa painfully dropped tot he ground.

Bisera had collected her wand and staggered to her feet, using the tree as support. Her eyes widened as she saw the psychic's gun-knife contraption rise smoothly into the air, pointing itself at the witch. Bisera swallowed bitterly and gripped her wand. "Leafo!" she cried, causing a thick, wall of vegetation to spring forth from the dirt in front of her, blocking her view of the psychic. Bisera's heart thumped wildly once she heard a bullet burst out of the weapon. Pistol, she thought bitterly. Fortunately, the wall had served its purpose and stopped the bullet from piercing Bisera's skull, splattering her brain. Bisera could still clearly see the depression in the wall, alerting her that she would need to move soon. Bisera's head and abdomen still ached yet she had to find decent cover. She faced the nearest tree and tried to climb it before crying out in pain. She barred her teeth as she spread her limbs wide. Bisera was usually quite adept at climbing trees but the pain would not permit her to perform this task as easily as she normally did.

Bisera looked up pleadingly. Mr. Tree, could you please help me climb you?

Although the tree stood as still as it always did, the large plant spoke to her. I would dear but I cannot move, as I am a tree. You are free to climb me however. Maybe try some of your magic.

Bisera nodded sadly. She would have to think of how to use magic to allow her to get to the top of the tr-bang. Another shot was fired at the wall. Bisera quickly turned her head. One more shot and she'd be finished. Bisera looked up at the leaves and softly swaying branches. She was determined to live, but the question was how would she live? Bisera softly gasp as she suddenly felt a being under her shirt. A moment later, Apostol, her sloth familiar popped his head from the back of her shirt.

"What is it Apostol? Are you trying to tell me something?" Bisera asked. Her eyes widened as she began to faintly glow green she tried to climb the tree again and to her amazement, she was able to quickly ascend the tree. She smiled as she reached the top. 

"Of course!" she exclaimed quietly. "You're a magical three-toed sloth! You transferred your ability to climb to me. Thank you Apostol, I love you."

The teenage boy used his psychokinesis to fire another bullet at the wall of vegetation that had sprouted, finally piercing it. He smirked before heading to his motorcycle. Afisa growled as she gripped her wand but before she could get a spell out, she felt a blast at her stomach, doubling her over. Her hand was then forcibly pried open and her wand was flung away from her.

The wall of vegetation receded into the dirt and the psychic paused, noticing there was no trace of Bisera. He grunted, said something and his weapon flew into his meaty hand. Afisa growled, ignoring her pain as she ran towards the psychic and pounced on him, her legs wrapped around him tightly. She gave a battle cry before chomping savagely on the psychic's ear, causing him to scream to the heavens as his head began to grow colder. The teenage girl suddenly felt herself roughly pried from the PES' body and flung into the air. She was then psychokinetically slammed into the ground, pain shooting through her body as she coughed up both the wind and blood. Cracks formed in the ground at her impact. It felt to the witch as if every bone in her body had been broken. The boy turned to her with smiled before strutting towards her.

Bisera winced and covered her mouth. She had already cured her own pain. It was imperative to stay in the trees and serve as the medic. She pointed her wand towards her downed, coughing friend. "Cura." she quietly said.

Afisa felt healed and saw the psychic walking towards her. She felt disgusted as the boy approached, not wanting to imagine what he had in store. Afisa would attack him with a feint. She closed her eyes and felt the mana around her flow into her. She however was looking for a particular type of mana. She patiently waited, searching for the mana she needed as the psychic slowly strut towards her laying body. Afisa simply waited, collecting mana and the euphoric feeling began to spread through her body begging for release. She closed her eyes tightly, the mana from the river surrounding her. She wasn't that well-versed in water magic but she'd have to try. She opened her hand wide, causing her wand to fly to her hand. She opened her eyes and pointed the wand at the boy who was now right in front of her. 

"Watera!" cried Afisa, allowing her body sweet release as a torrent of water shot out from the wand and sent the boy painfully hurtling into the air. Afisa rose with a smile and a clenched fist.

Bisera watched as the teen began to fall. His motorcycle came to him and he mounted it, bursting with speed as soon as they landed. He opened his hand and the weapon he dropped went he was hosed, flew back into his hand. Even though he's bad, you have to admit, that was pretty cool.

Afisa grunted in irritation as the psychic sped towards her, hardly deterred from her prior attack. She tried to move out the way of the psychic's swipe with his knife but yet again, he displayed his marvel biker skills and was able to move accordingly, still managing to slice the witch's stomach before stabbing her stomach and grabbing her. Afisa growled. The fabric that made up her garb was able to protect the wearer from cuts somewhat but not much. Afisa didn't have much time to worry about her pain for it was healed in an instant thanks to Bisera above.

The psychic then fired a barrage of bullets from his gun, driving quickly on his motorcycle. Afisa blew a tired breath from her nose and quickly held her wand in front of her. She called, Ice a myriad of times, sending dense balls of ice to counter the bullets. She missed the last bullet however and it pierced the girl's chest.

Afisa looked at the PES fearfully, feeling blood in her mouth. Despite her pierced lung, she refused to fall to the ground again. Miraculously, that too was mended by Bisera and soon Afisa could only feel minor irritation in her chest. The witch barred her teeth and sent a ball ball toward the psychic who evaded it easily on his motorcycle. She was preparing another spell when she was halted before being lifted a few inches of the ground, her neck stretching slightly. She clawed at the invisible grasp to no avail. The PES hopped off his motorcycle and jogged towards her, causing Afisa to sneer as she tried to free herself.

She heard Bisera call "Leafo!" sending razor sharp leaves towards the PES, bestowing upon him crimson scratches and ripping his jeans and the exposed portion of his shirt. He screamed something before sprinting at Afisa. The girl tried to run away, realizing that the wound she had inflicted earlier had healed. Afisa was tackled to the ground by the boy, sending the two combatants into a tumble. Once the two had stopped, the PES was on top of Afisa, the skinny witch pinned by the psychic's weight.

Afisa grimaced at the psychic's hot breath on her face as he blabbered something, she felt as if her skin would melt off of her head. He leaned in closer, causing Afisa to squirm even more. He kissed her forehead, causing the witch to roar with hatred. That's when Afisa's eyes grew wide and she began to shiver. On her lower half the PES was on top of her but she could feel a distinct hardness. It felt hot like fire and felt like a one-hundred pound dumbbell on the witch's crotch. She growled, knowing for certain that the boy lusted for her. Get the fuck off me you piece of shit! Get off my so I can stab you, so I can choke you, so I can slit your fat-ass throat, fill my mouth with your blood and spit in your piggy little face! I want to piss on your putrid corpse then dance on it!

Afisa was attempting to use her wand to blast him away when the PES noticed this and stabbed his knife through the witch's left arm, causing her to scream in pain. That only seemed to fuel the teen's desire for her. The PES was about to lick the witch when she fought through her pain, blood gushing through the wound as she called "Fire," sending the PES off of her due to a concussive blast of flame. She quickly snatched the blade out of her arm, freeing it, before tossing the weapon away. The oozing wound on the witch's arm quickly mended due to her friend using a healing spell above.

The PES blinked, seeing the wound in her arm heal. He looked up with a "tsk" before leaping high into the air.

...

Juan folded his arms as he looked at the enlarged map topographic map of South Africa that was displayed on the giant screen of the control room with intense concentration. She turned to Lucy who was tapping away at a keyboard, occasionally stealing a dreamy glance at her super-powered boss.

Juan waved a beckoning hand. "Come Lucy." he commanded. He seemed to be in a haste.

The young woman sprinted from her computer and hugged at Juan's arm, looking up at his face and becoming lost in his old, brown eyes. "Of course, Juan." she said, shuddering when she said "Juan".

Juan looked at her, smiling slightly. "Are the PES safely in the forest?" he inquired.

"Affirmative Juan! We managed to pierce the shield and beam them in without a hitch!" Lucy confirmed.

Juan nodded as he stroked his goatee which was white as snow. "Good, good." he said in his old, yet commanding voice. "Now tell me, Lucy. How is that shield? Is it down or has it already regenerated?" he asked, suddenly alert.

"Oh." Lucy said, taking note of the life that had been birthed in Juan's voice. She went over to the computer and tapped at her keyboard while looking at the screen, furrowing her eyebrows. "It appears the shield is still down. It doesn't appear to be regenerating rapidly. I'd estimate we have about an hour or so before it's regenerated."

Lucy jumped as Juan suddenly clapped his hands together. "Excellent!" he exclaimed, smiling deviously. "Prepare me a tractor beam." Juan commanded.

Lucy blinked. "But sir, I thought you weren't part of the mission."

Juan waved a dismissive hand. "This is not part of the mission. I have a meeting I must attend."

A meeting? No, I shouldn't question Lord Carlos. "Understood, the beam will be ready momentarily.

Juan grinned. "Excellent. I'll be on my way now. Tell Kola to hold the fort while I'm down."

Lucy blinked. Kola? I could feel her death glare earlier today. "Understood, I'll t-tell her right away." she said shakily.

Juan walked down the hall with big, purposeful steps and a large smile on his face as his heart thumped quickly. It's been a while. Maybe I should have brought a gift...

...

Gojo had leapt high into the air, using his telekinesis to give him more height. He was so busy dealing with the blond witch that he had taken such a shine to that he hadn't noticed that the weird, green haired witch had disappeared. At the sight of the attractive witch's wound fully healing, Gojo theorized that the other witch was healing her comrade from somewhere he couldn't see.

Gojo heard the blond witch growl and was stuck with a blast of cold wind, ice shards and snow balls, sending him to the ground. Gojo quickly picked himself up and regarded the witch who was loathefully sneering at him with a smile. He stood up, his lust thickening. I just love it when a bitch puts up a fight! It just gets me so damn hard especially when I put 'em in they place!

"Yo babe! You gon' keep at it?" Gojo loudly asked.

As if it answer, the witch held her wand behind her and was suddenly propelled with a burst of speed. Gojo noticed a trail of flame behind the witch. He shook his head and thrust forward his hand, slamming the girl backwards, the back of her head slamming roughly onto the ground. Suddenly, the witch was up again.

"Yo' fine ass just don't know when to quit, do you?" he asked, smiling. "Whatevs. I just gotta' beat yo' ass black and blue before I get my way." he said before snapping his fingers. He jumped up and when he came down, the seat of his motorcycle was under him and his yorodoshi connected to his black Glock 20 pistol was in his right hand. He sped towards the blond witch on his bike.

The witch fired an icicle at Gojo but the psychic teen and his motorcycle simply leapt over the icicle and the witch. After Gojo had landed he tilted his glock sideways and shot at the witch who was standing still. The 10mm bullet went through the witch's leg forcing her to a kneeling position. Gojo blinked. Why ain't she attackin'?

The blond witch rose, her leg seemingly healed. She fired a spiral streak of magic from her wand, yet Gojo deftly evaded it on his bike, augmenting his control and speed thanks to his psychokinesis. You pretty good but it's my turn now. Gojo lifted the witch into the air and slammed her against a tree, which she slid down limply. Gojo leered at the girl, her chest heaving under her somewhat tight black dress. He zoomed towards her on his bike.

The witch looked up defiantly and tried her spell again, this time connected and sending Gojo flipping of of his bike, which crashed into the tree that the witch had leapt away from. Gojo growled. "That shit better not be broke!"

The witch ignored the PES and fired a barrage of icicles, each were deflected harmlessly away. Gojo smirked. Even if one of them did connect, he wouldn't be too worried. He rubbed his hand under his torn shirt, across his slightly flabby stomach. Ever since he began training with Juan, he had begun to heal at an accelerated rate and he found himself more resistant to pain than he ever was. He concluded that Juan was correct, the pills that he was given back in Japan were ultimately hindering him more than helping him. Once Gojo sent a psychic blast towards the girls stomach before sending three psychic slaps across her face, hitting it the opposite direction than the last. Finally, Gojo brought his elbow down, sending the girl face-first into the ground with a loud thud.

Gojo sighed with relief. He liked being in control and always put those who got uppity and challenged him where they belonged, at his feet. He tried ignoring the humiliation Juan gave him the previous day and the favoritism he was showing towards Joshua. Gojo knelt down at  the blond witch who he so desired. He licked his lips hungrily and he moved his hand towards the girl's head, feeling as if he'd burst with passion as he grew hotter and hotter. "I hope you ready girl..."

He heard something animalistic shout from the trees and the witch he was near suddenly shot her head up, her blue eyes flaming with hatred. The witch was about to cast a spell when Gojo slammed her against a tree using his psychokinesis. "Now you're just pissin' me the fuck off!" he growled as he grabbed her neck. He yelped as he felt his back grow wet with blood, sharp leaves piercing it. Without letting go of the witch's neck, he stomped the ground, cancelling the leaf spell and sending the green-haired girl to the ground. Gojo dropped the other witch and turned to the green-haired one, the former coughing. Gojo frowned at the darker-skinned witch darkly. He hated her for he saw her as a roadblock to the fun between him and the blond witch. He regarded her vomit-green hair and dirt-brown skin as ugly and the frown she sent him only served to make his blood boil. He meant to kill her a while ago. He'd do so now.

Gojo summoned his weapon and dashed towards the prone, green-haired witch. He screamed in pain as he felt a mass of sharp, pointy objects sink into his right leg. The psychic fell to the ground as he began to feel his leg go numb. Gojo quickly turned to see the culprit: a small lizard-looking animal. Gojo tried to pry it off but felt a large chunk of his flesh peeling off quickly stopped. He then pointed his weapon at the animal and shot at it twice, sending it tumbling away. He rose and turned angrily towards the green-haired witch. No doubt that ugly cunt will heal the-

Gojo quickly turned around and ducked under the fire blast that was sent his way courtesy of his blond witch. Gojo quickly looked at his bloody leg. I don't feel it healing and it still bleedin' what they fuck is that thing. He knocked the wand out of the blond witch's hand with a growl as he stomped towards her. I'll just have to fuck the bitch unconscious!

He stomped towards the witch and quickly grabbed her long, blond hair that flowed from under her black, pointed hat. He slammed the girl's head repeatedly against the ground. He brought her head up the third time with a smile. There was blood in her mouth and her eyes were glazed over. He brought her face towards his for a kiss...

Gojo growled as he was suddenly blinded by a bright, white light. He felt a light body tackle him, sending him a bit away from the blond witch. Sight had come back to him yet just barely. Gojo angrily kicked the lizard who was running angrily towards him away and flung the green-haired witch over his shoulder. He was preparing to snap her neck when the witch fired a large ball of flame out of her wand as she was falling towards the ground. The ball of flame flew straight towards the engine of Gojo's beloved motorcycle. The engine ignited and the motorcycle spectacularly blew up in a flash, a red, fiery explosion being the only proof it was there, that, and the few scattered, metal parts that were strewn about. The explosion set the nearby trees ablaze.

Gojo looked at the green-haired witch who was laying on the ground with a look of utter dumbfoundedness. She looked up weakly and pointed her wand towards her friend, casting a spell.

Gojo ran a hand through his short, jet black hair with a smile. He laughed as he shook his head before nodding. "I'mma kill ya, I'mma kill ya'..." he laughed before roaring in primal rage. "I'm going to fucking kill ya you ugly-ass bitch!" he roared as he burst forward.

The green-haired witch's eyes were wide with fear before he tackled her to the ground, his thick knees were on the girl's chest, making it hard for her to breathe. Gojo was too caught up in his own rage to utilize his psychokinesis. He didn't want to kill her quickly, he wanted to see her bleed to see her suffer. Gojo began wailing on the witch, punching her savagely in the face with monstrous speed and strength. He smiled wildly as he felt her teeth break and saw her skin blacken. He headbutted her three times, feeling like nothing to his hard head. He quickly got up and stomped savagely on her chest, caving her rib-cage in. He stomped on her face before spitting on it, feeling satisfied as the girl screamed madly in pain yet not satisfied enough. The PES took a handful of her hair and jerked her head up. He quickly slashed his knife across the witch's neck, slitting her throat. She fell to the groan, gurgling. Her eyes telling of undesirable pain as her damaged neck spewed crimson blood, leaking into the dark dirt. Despite this pain she still gripped her wand tightly and closed her eyes while barring her teeth as tears streamed down her face. The inexplicable smell of citrus coming from the injured girl only served to invigorate the enraged teenager.

Gojo looked down at the dying witch and smiled and satisfaction as she let out a scream of pain into the forest air. That's what that bitch gets for blastin' my ride...

Gojo turned and saw the blond witch running towards him, screaming. Her eyes were wild and tears streamed her face. "And what the fuck do you think you gonna' do to me?" he took out his gun and tilted it sideways. He shot at the witch's left lung, then right lung. The shock of the blasts caused the witch to drop her wand. After clicking the trigger a third time to the realization that it was out of bullets, the psychic threw his weapon towards the witch's abdomen, piercing deeply into it. The witch weakly pulled it out and dropped to the ground. Gojo stepped aside, wanting to see what happened next.

...

It wasn't working. No matter how hard she tried to ignore the pain, Bisera could not, all she could fel is the hollow pain of her open neck, blood rushing out of her body. This made it ridiculously hard to gather mana. Each second, it felt like the life was pulsing out of her body. However, Bisera knew she simply had to gather mana, to help Afisa. That's why she wouldn't let go of her wand no matter how much it hurt.

Afisa cried in pain as she weakly crawled towards her sister, leaving a ghoulish trail of blood behind. She was blind with tears. Each breath she took, regardless of it being via nose or mouth, felt like a sharp sting and tasted of blood. The witch routinely coughed up blood from her mouth like a horrifying fountain as she slowly approached Bisera. 

Afisa had finally made it to her destination, Bisera. Afisa looked up at her injured friend. "Bisera." she said through a gargled, blood drowned voice. "Can you heal me? If you can't then just save yourself."

"Not another word Afisa." commanded Bisera softly, her own voice gargled with blood. "I'd save you first but I'm sad to say that I don't think I have enough power for eit-" Bisera coughed, splattering blood on Afisa's face.

Afisa reached her hand out and gripped Bisera's left hand, the hand that was gripping her wand tightly. "Then let's do it together." she clasped her other hand on her hand and Bisera in turn clasped her right hand over Bisera's. The two witch's closed their eyes. Together, the two could quickly gather a large amount of mana. They felt nature wash over them as the blood in their mouths receded and they felt the cool breeze of spring. They sighed pleasurably, their wounds closing and regaining the blood they had lost. They opened they eyes. Although they had been healed they felt dangerously weak and drained.

Despite this, Afisa rose. She winced. Despite her wounds being healed for the most part, her chest still stung. She held open her hand and her wand flew to her.

"Afisa, what in the world are you doing!?" Bisera cried.

"Isn't it obvious!? I'm going to make that little shit pay!" Afisa explained, coldly looking at the PES who was smirking a ways away with his arms folded.

"We almost died! We can't take him! We need to hide." warned Bisera.

"He'll just find us! Beside, we can't leave before exterminating the PES!" barked Afisa.

"Gaia never said that!" cried Bisera in exasperation.

Afisa growled. "We'll leave after I make him pay for what he did to you!" she said as she held out her wand. "Fira!" she screamed. She felt a sharp pain and fell to her knees, no magic had manifested from her wand. "W-what?" she breathed.

Bisera looked at her friend in concern. She pointed her wand at Afisa. "Cura!" she cried before being met with the same dull pain. Both of the girls felt incredibly weak. "What's going on." her stomach felt cold.

Afisa had the same feeling on her stomach so she lifted up her dress with a shocked gasp. The brand that bore Gaia's symbol was now simply a black circle. Bisera looked and her jark was a black circle as well.

"What does this mean?" asked Bisera worried.

"I think it means we can't use magic for a while." Afisa answered.

"So we run?" asked Bisera, rising.

"We run." confirmed Afisa, rising as well.

Bisera took Afisa's hand and panting witches darted into the trees, Afisa's spectacled caiman following close behind.  As they ran, the witches' chests felt on fire and they seemed liable to pass out any second. The trio could hear Gojo quickly approaching from behind them but they dared not look back.

Chapter Sixteen: The Titans TalkEdit

Gaia exited her portal, into a section of her forest. This portion just happened to be her favorite. She had first visited this forest what seemed like eons ago. She frequently came back for the nostalgia it possessed was just too grand to ignore. Gaia breathed in the forest air that smelled of fruit and maple. Bright light streamed in the particular section of the forest, lighting up the dirt path between the trees while leaving the thin shadows under the trees dark. The area seemed to be enveloped in a sepia tint. A few feet in front of her was a marble statue of Aphrodite (it appeared to be Aphrodite Pudica) that stood at the base of a tree.

Gaia blinked. She felt a familiar feeling in the air, a feeling that although she could always feel, she hadn't been near it in person in a long time. Memories flushed over the goddess of the Earth and she thought of times past, a somewhat simpler time. Happier time? Maybe so, maybe not. Despite being the Earth, she would be lying if she claimed to have all the answers.

Gaia swallowed. The familiar feeling lingered, as if the source was there. It seemed to be regarding her and she didn't much care for that.

Gaia's felt her heart skip a beat as a familiar voice spoke to her. The voice was definitely much older than she remembered it, yet the owner was still unmistakable.

"Hello, Gaia." greeted Juan Carlos. Gaia could practically hear the smile in his voice.

Gaia slowly turned around and there he was, Juan Carlos, smiling with his hands behind his back. Although his appearance had changed drastically since the last time she saw him in person, he still looked the same to her.

Gaia was silent for a moment before she narrowed her eyes and folded her arms. "Greetings, Juan Magnifco Buscador Carlos." 

Juan recoiled and put his hand over his chest, his brown eyes were wide and expressing mock hurt. The leader of the PES gasped. "Addressing me by my full name?! W-why Gaia, I'm hurt. I thought we were friends!"

Gaia blew a breath and rolled her eyes. "Always one for theatrics, aren't we Carlos?"

Juan folded his arms, smirking somewhat deviously. "So we continue with the formality, do we?" he said over Gaia's voice.

"I'm guessing that's what this is all about?" Gaia stated, throwing out her long arms, her white sleeves dangling somewhat off of her arms. "This entire conflict of ours, is it just one big show?" she asked piercingly.

Instead of recoiling, the old man simply shook his head as he blew a breath with a smile. He looked up at the goddess, looking her yellow eyes. "You underestimate me, my dear Gaia, still. No, I know that this is not a game, the fate of the world hangs in the balance."

Gaia tilted her head upwards. "Yes, I'm glad you are aware of the gravity of the situation we're in. Now, tell me, why are you here? Is it to destroy me?"

Juan waved a hand, as he laughed, his body shaking with joy. "Oh, please Gaia! You're too much! Do you honestly think I'd come for you this early on?" he laughed. Gaia angrily stared at the man as he expelled the last few laughs from his system before rising and looking at Gaia once more. "Our match of chess has just begun. It would be foolhardy for me to go after the black king at this point while all of his minions are still alive and surrounding her like insects." Juan closed his eyes. "My soldiers don't know their roles yet. No, it is too early to try to capture the king."

Gaia raised her eyebrow condescendingly at the psychic. "Chess you say? So, it is a game to you."

Juan sighed. "It is simply an analogy, an analogy for this war we are waging. Analogies make things easier to understand and simpler to connect to. I could simply talk about the war but talking about chess simplifies the subject and makes it more tangible."

Gaia had to will herself not to spew out a laugh. Is he being serious? Does he  honestly believe he needs a way to make a war more tangible

"To answer your question Gaia." began Juan, putting his hands behind his back. "I am simply here to talk, to discuss this war before we become too caught up in it. Friends can talk, correct?" he asked, smiling.

Gaia sneered. "We are not friends Juan. Do you honestly think I'd consider an uppity human who wishes to destroy me my friend?" she hissed.

"Fair enough, that's understandable. Yet, I know that to you I am not simply the commander of the opposing army." Juan retorted "You want to know how?"

Gaia was silent.

"You referred to me as "Juan"." he smiled.

Gaia swallowed. A feeling had overcome her, the same feeling that would allow The Earth to kill Carmelo Acerbi without a second thought yet would not allow her to engage Juan in a titanic battle right at that moment. Gaia folded her arms. "Fine, we talk. What about, this lovely weather?" Gaia snided.

Juan snickered. "Gaia has a sharp tongue as ever!"

"Only when the person I'm talking to makes foolish comments as much as you do Juan." Gaia retorted.

"Awww," said Juan, raising his eyebrows. "You seemed to think I was pretty back when-"

"Enough." snapped Gaia in the way only she seemed able to, not raising her voice yet still managing to shake the one she was talking to. "I'll get the ball rolling, as the phrase goes. You love talking about yourself so much, so let's begin with talking about you Juan. I must say Juan, for someone so egotistical it's certainly strange for you to gather ten children in order to defeat me."

"In order to defeat you and your witches, I'd need the help of-" Juan began.

"Cease you farce, you know good and well that at this moment, you could obliterate the witches right now, then it's just me and you. Now tell me you angle, why in truth have you created the PES?" Gaia spat.

Juan shook his head. "Tsk, tsk tsk. Gaia, for someone who apparently isn't your friend, you sure gave me some damning information..."

Gaia clenched her fist. "Silence. I say that now but be aware that my girls are growing more powerful by the day."

"So are the PES." Juan responded. "Have you considered the fact that I cannot find you in the first place a infuriating majority of the time? By the time I do track you down, the PES' aid will certainly be needed. Besides, I've taken a long look at myself and I can acknowledge that I cannot bring you down all by myself."

Gaia folded her arms. I suppose that answer is satisfactory. "Aw, that's touching...or else it would be if you weren't a madman."

"I'll take your insults in stride Gaia." smiled Juan. "Now tell me, why have you surrounded yourself with the witches? I thought you were disgusted at the sight of humans." stated Juan.

Gaia's face twisted into a scowl. "My daughters are not human! It is apparent that you know nothing about me Juan Carlos! The faces of humans are not what disgust me but their actions most definitely are! Their horrifying murder of members of their own race, their foolish bigotry, their disregard for all other life but their own, their vomit inducing pride, their constant rape of me, those are the sins of man and it makes me sick to my vast stomach! I've looked into the eyes of each and every one of my daughters and in their souls rests not the grand, stifling darkness of mankind. My witches are so much greater than self-important humans, greater than you Juan Carlos." she stated, the wind seeming to blow to cool her down.

Juan smirked. "Mankind has earned its bigheadedness because we earned it. Do you see your precious birds soaring out of the stratosphere? I think not."

Gaia's eyes darkened. "Birds aren't meant to escape from me, nor are humans."

Juan sighed. "Your precious witches are not greater than me. The PES are so much more than your lowly drones. They posses the pinnacle of the intelligence of man that you so fear."

"You are mistaken, I fear no man." Gaia stated.

"You never actually answered my question." Juan noted.

Gaia closed her eyes. "So are we essentially showing our stomachs to each other, so to speak?"

Juan smiled. "Gaia, you have no secrets from me. You are simply humoring me."

Gaia frowned. "The witches will become much more powerful, I have already reached my peak...I did some time ago." she revealed.

Juan's grin stretched from ear-to-ear. "Oh, so you have passed your prime Gaia? Maybe you'll join me in the white hair club!"

Gaia seemed to chuckle. "I think not. I am quite fond of the form I possess." she blew a breath. "As I have indeed reached my prime, I..." Gaia was afraid of revealing too much. "I just felt it more secure to gather daughters that would serve as bodyguards who would protect their mother."

Juan chuckled. "So meatshields then? I thought you cared about your "daughters" more than that."

Gaia frowned. "My daughters are not indispensable. I love them and make sure they are not horribly injured. Hence the fact that I do not refer to them as soldiers."

Juan smirked. "Oh really now? Your green-haired daughter seemed in pretty bad shape the other night after my boys had a little go with her."

Gaia couldn't help but let a low growl escape her throat, causing the ground to slightly rumble.

"I don't lie to my students. While I do equip them with the tools to sharpen their minds into fine weapons, I never sugarcoat the fact that if they fool around, they will die."  Juan replied.

Gaia folded her arms. "Okay Juan, my turn top ask a question. I don't want whatever utter drivel you feed your pawns. Since we are revealing everything and since whatever I say won't sway anyone who isn't a witch to my side, you have nothing to lose. Why are you doing this?" 

"Unlike you Gaia, I do not need to lie about anything." stated Juan. He pointed his finger grandly at the witch. "I am simply acting to make sure your tyrannical bout of egotism never comes to pass!" he thundered.

Gaia blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Your tyrannical kingdom where you rule this Earth, slaughtering most of mankind and enslaving the rest, ushering in your "natural" dystopia, The Queendom of Gaia." Juan explained. "I have begun this war to make sure your dark, twisted fantasy is never realized.

Gaia blinked before smiling. "Ha..haha....hahaha! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" she laughed loudly. Her eyes were wide and she was bent over, clutching her stomach for she felt that her gut would surely burst. As her loud echoed through the forest, causing birds to flutter out of trees in fright, it began to sound like a cackle. Unable to breathe or stop laughing, tears streamed out of Gaia's yellow eyes and streaked her face. It took all the restraint she could muster not to fall to the ground and roll around, pounding her fist on the ground as she did so. When Gaia laughed in that way, she looked so much younger than she truly was, she seemed to have the appearance of a teenager at that time. Juan simply stood there, smirking annoyedly with his hands behind his back as he regarded the display. After a minute and a half of nonstop laughing, Gaia shakily rose up and wiped her tears away with her sleeve, her face was red as a ketchup.

Gaia shook her head, smiling. She turned to the heavens. "Oh, oh Digirama, he is actually serious." She then looked back at Juan. "You actually, truly believe you are fighting for a noble cause. You are living an illusion if you truly believe that Juan Carlos."

Juan smiled. "My dear Gaia, are you so blind as to think you are in the right here?"

"How foolish have you become Juan!?" shouted Gaia in a rare showing of emotion to a human. "What is the ultimate goal of this war for you!?"

"Slaying you." answered Juan.

"And may I remind you kindly that I am The Earth! The very land you stand on, the very air you breathe! Without me you would not be alive!" Gaia argued angrily.

Juan sighed. "There's that ego once again Gaia. Yes, I'm aware you are a witch who claims to be The Earth."

"No," Gaia growled. "You know very well that I truly am the Earth and as such, you very well know that your little crusade bears the sole purpose of destroying the very planet herself!"

"My "little crusade" bears the sole purpose of saving the human race." corrected Juan.

"Your race is beyond saving. I'm at least proud that this time, your intent on destroying me is being made clear." 

"I'm an honorable man. Now, what is your plan exactly?" asked Juan.

"Stopping you." answered Gaia.

"...from stopping you." Juan chuckled. "My, my, we're caught in a loop here. How exciting. No ceasefire! No surrender! No treaties! Just carrying this conflict of interests out into the glorious finale!"

"You're a madman." claimed Gaia darkly.

"No more madder than you." responded Juan. The PES commander began to pace back and forth. "Though I must say, although I say conflict of interests, the conflict comes from us interpretating our mutual interest differently: said interest being what's best for this world. My interpretation is stopping you from becoming Tyrant Queen."

"While I know that to continue living, I'll need to end the life of you, your army of super-powered children and making sure I exterminate every single psychic in existence." Gaia stated.

Juan winced. "Oooh, see? Things like that show your true colors." Juan stated.

"Stopping you comes first, then my course of action to ensure that no attack of this magnitude is mounted against me ever again comes later. You know very well that I have no plot to rule or eradicate you dogs en masse. You sad imbeciles will wipe out yourselves soon enough." Gaia stated. She paused. Though, in order to do that...Gaia recalled grimly the scars she'd received after the events of The Fat Man and Little Boy bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki then recalled the bombings of Bikini Atoll and the Chernobyl disaster...they would probably...

Juan sighed and frowned as he threw out his hands. "Gaia!" he whined. "I thought we weren't going to keep secrets from each other! I've known your plot for decades now. don't need to lie to get people to listen to me."

Gaia chuckled darkly. "You sound like two of my daughters, Lillian and Zoe."

Juan smirked, stroking his goatee. "Oh? Not all of Mommie Dearest's little poopsies adore her? Feh, all of the PES listen to me. Sure there are varying levels of how much they listen to me but rest assured Gaia, at the end of the day, when I'm in front of my fireplace drinking my hot chocolate, they all do."

Gaia smirked. "That's because I don't posses your silver tongue. Your ability to weave pretty lies is what gains you the favor of your subjects and the public at large. I also bet there's no doubt systematic abuse administered to quell any dissent."

Juan frowned. "Please, truth and justice are on my side, I need not use such dirty tricks." he spat. He smirked as he raised his eyebrows. "Oh, and lies are apparently what gains me the favor of the public? Actions speak louder than words Gaia. Unfortunately for you, what caused the world to gravitate towards me were your own witches. Care to explain why they were wrecking havoc in England with one of your beasts?" he asked.

Gaia's face was strained yet she remained silent.

Juan laughed. "Gaia, if you're going to be a liar, at least be a good one! You can't spew nonsense of me being an evil maniac one second and just be hush-hush the next! You need to be able to make something up." Juan snapped his fingers sharply. "Just like that! If the press finds you, just make up some drivel, say those were just PES in disguise trying to make the witches look bad. You're a witch, you can get outlandish! It'll do you good Gaia, believe me."

Gaia remained silent as she folded her arms.

Juan stopped pacing. "But I'm telling you, those two girls you mentioned, if they stay unchecked they will be your downfall."

Gaia finally spoke. "You cannot beat me Juan Carlos. Your mad plot to slay the Earth and rule this planet as king shall not come to fruition."

"I can and shall beat you Gaia." Juan stated darkly, his conversational tone having seemingly evaporated into thin air.

Gaia shook her head, frowning. "No, you cannot Juan Carlos. You've always overestimated your power and now you've bit of exponentially more than you can chew. I am this world. The winds, seas, volcanoes and the ground is at my disposal. All the power of the world is at my fingertips because I am that power."

Juan laughed. He flashed Gaia a menacing, pearly-white toothy smile. "One-hundred-ninety-six-point-nine million miles squared that is your surface area. Your mass, volume and density are also very quantifiable. My point is, you are finite, you have set boundaries. If your claim is that you have the power of the planet at your disposable, that isn't that impressive. The planet only has so many things it can throw at the PES. Earth isn't even the biggest, nor deadliest planet in this solar system. We humans are what make this planet so great, there wouldn't even really be an appreciation of this planet, nor a higher knowledge of it if not for us. It's especially humorous that you claim that you're unbeatable when your demise has already been predicted. The sun, the very thing that gives you life, will grow more luminous and destroy your ecosystem and evaporate the seas, singing your pretty hair all off. Then, it will engulf you, charring and melting you, making it as if you were never even there." Juan smirked as he touched his forehead. "My power however is my mind, which is infinitely vast. As long as I can think it, I can will it. Your dimensions are easily defined while only the foolish would try to quantify what I can think and since I've been honing my craft for so long now, I'm untouchable."

Gaia frowned. "Life is what makes me so powerful. I have the lives of an untold amount of creatures ever flowing in my veins-!"

"Those creatures die! A large percentage of life on Earth is no longer here and while you sit, doing nothing, they will all die one day-!"

"You believe the witch's power is finite while the PES' is infinite? Don't make me laugh. You cannot grasp the true power of magic."

"I don't need to, intellect is stronger than some silly voodoo."

"The witches will become so much stronger than I am, you do not stand a chance."

"The PES have experienced things that I have only observed from a distance, they will surely possess power different from mine."

Gaia shook her head. "It's like talking to a wall."

Juan smiled. "For me, it's like talking to a pig." he took a breath. "But that's expected of you Gaia."

"I believe this charade is over. Tell me now, why have you sent the PES in this forest?" inquired Gaia.

Juan put his hands behind his back. "If you must know, I've come to retrieve the lily that you hold so dear. The lily that stores a wealth of mana and retains it phenomenally."

Gaia gasped. The Manalith! Oh, why am I such a fool!?

"You think you have one over me? Sending those unorthodox witches into battle yesterday in order to trip my students up? Well, I have news for you, I have my own wildcard. He's Gojo Hashizawa. He's surly, powerful, and extremely hungry for battle." Juan chuckled. "I hope your daughters are doing fine. I wouldn't bet your fancy horse on it though."

Gaia clenched a fist.

Juan pulled up his sleeve slightly, revealing his golden, diamond studded watch. He raised his eyebrows as he looked at it. "Oh, well won't you look at the time." he said quietly. Juan turned around and waved a hand. He spoke louder now. "I take it our little meeting is over. Adi-"

"Wait, Juan Carlos." called Gaia in a voice that caused the psychic to immediately stop and turn around.

"What is it Gaia? I was sure you wanted me to take my leave."

"Not before answering one question of mine."

"Okay, shoot."

Gaia recalled the shudder-inducing aura she detected when examining the area that the PES named Andy and Juan's own daughter, Kola had been the previous day. She also remembered Ankur's own recount of the disgusting energy. "Just what is up with your daughter?"

Juan blinked blankly before speaking. "Lots of meat and milk. Prior to her fourteenth birthday she was flat as a board, that combined with her somewhat short hair and her rowdiness and she was sometimes mistaken for a boy. I made sure she ate right though. Then, on her fourteenth birthday, puberty hit that girl like a freight train. They just ballooned. Her mother's were pretty big but nowhere that big. She claims that they're due to my genes and she must be right. I still say all the meat and milk helped. Hope that was satisfactory." Juan turned around and began walking away.

Gaia blinked in confusion before recalling the woman's massive breasts. "That's not what I meant!" she said in annoyance.

Juan turned his head, smirking deviously. "Then you should have been more specific. I wouldn't want you to be even more of a liar than you already are so I won't let you ask another question. Maybe soon you'll be able to ask me what you actually wanted to ask, or maybe you'll see Kola in battle and find out yourself." Juan Carlos turned around. "I'm afraid this will probably be our last cordial meeting, we have people to meet, armies to manage, all that jazz. Our one-on-one battle won't be today but do not fret, it will be soon, oh so very soon, my dear Gaia. In the wee hours of the night when I'm lying in my bed, the thought of me and you engaging in mortal combat will keep me awake with delighted shudders. Adios." 

Before Juan turned down a corner, he stopped and turned around. He grinned wryly. "Oh, and give Ankur my regards." he stated before rounding a corner, disappearing from sight.

Gaia turned, looking at Aphrodite for answers before realizing that she knew the answer to the question she was hung up on. Gaia gasped, feeling a sharp pain in her chest. "My manalith!" she growled before waving her arms, causing a myriad of green colored orbs of mana to dance around her. It condensed into a black seed the size of an apple with a red cross on it. Gaia opened a portal and angrily threw it in before quickly sinking into the ground below.

Chapter Seventeen:Promises of FallEdit

Afwerki and Andy continued to search the large forest, Manic following close behind, scampering on all fours. Despite the forest being the domain of their arch-nemesis, Gaia, the three couldn't help but feel a soothing calm wash over them. Andy was at first fearful that they were being drugged but soon realized that the blissful feeling came from how natural the forest was. As the trio walked they could feel eternity surround them as the cicadas buzzed and the trees swayed in dance.

"We've still not found the lily brother yet, I don't mind that much." admitted Afwerki.

Andy put his hands behind his head. "Yeah, I hear ya. I'll look for this lily if need be if that's what it takes. I'm in no rush to be cooped back up in my room with Zack."

Afwerki gave a pleading, half-smile. "Brother Zack isn't that bad, in fact, I'd say he's one of the nicest people I have met in my short life. Are you bitter about what occurred the previous day."

Andy sniffed, smelling for any lilies. Manic did likewise, darting left into the trees, with Andy and Afwerki following close behind. The shaggy-haired psychic blew a breath from his mouth. "No, I could care less about what happened the other day. Apparently he was stopped by instincts and I can't much mind that. It's just that, he's so annoying and never leaves me alone. He's loud, and stupid and always, always tries to talk to me." he complained.

Afwerki smiled. "I think he's just trying to be your friend, brother."

Andy was silent. "Yeah, I know he is." he pulled up his yellow bandanna somewhat. "Sharing a room with 'em, I suppose he's one of the only humans that I...would consider my fr-...somewhat decent." Andy uncertainly stated. He hated the fact that he was opening up to a selfish, destructive human. Before Afwerki could get a response in, he quickly changed the subject. Andy smirked. "Hard to believe this is Gaia's forest. It's so nice, no crazy monsters trying to kill us." 

Afwerki nodded. "I agree, this is wonderful."

Throughout their journey through the forest, Andy observed the energies of the animals. They were all blue, the color that they were when they were happily in their natural habitat. 

Afwerki and Andy moved a low tree branch out of the way and gasped. There it was, in the center of a small pond with, populated by majestic swans and pink flamingos was their lily. The two could see the lily because it was the only form of vegetation on the surface of the pond. The lily was a beautiful, yellow star surrounded by white petals resting on a delicate boat of green leaves.

Afwerki jogged forward, smiling. "There it is, my brother! Come on!" he cried.

"Stop!" commanded Andy so sharply that Afwerki stopped, almost tripping due to how abruptly he had decided to stop moving. Andy walked forward hands out. "Once we retrieve the lily, the mission is finished and we have to leave."

Afwerki frowned. "Yes but we are here for a specific purpose. We have enjoyed the forest, now it's time to complete th-"

Andy folded his arms and sneered. "My god you sound like a mindless drone right now. What will happen if we complete the mission a bit late, we know the forest is harmless."

Afwerki didn't want to anger Andy further. He sighed and took and annoyed step back.

"We'll go when the swans and flamingos leave, teacher's pet. Deal?" Andy frowned.

"Deal." stated Afwerki.

Andy sighed. Maybe he was being a bit too harsh with Afwerki, he shouldn't forget that Gaia ruled this forest. A few moments passed. "Afwerki, I'm sorry-"

"Already forgotten brother. Waiting for a little while longer probably won't case too much-" the area was illuminated by a bright flash of lightning and after it had gone, the sky was an angry dark gray and rain pelted at the trio's faces. The trees were whipped around in agony due to the howling wind. The next thing he knew, Afwerki found himself smacked by a large, smooth, and forceful hand, sending the PES flying through he air before he crashed roughly into a tree, sending wood splinters every which way.

Andy's eyes widened in horror as he looked up, gaping at what stood terribly before him. A seventeen foot tall horrific beast similar to the one he had battle two days before stared at him. It appeared to be slightly growing each second. Brown, dreadlock-like tendrils sprouted from the top of its head and covered its eyes. Its green "teeth" were crooked and interlocked when its mouth was closed, similar to a venus flytrap's. It appeared to be made of slippery and slimy green vegetation and smelled of fruits. Andy could see two thick, long wings on its back that looked similar to the wings of a helicopter. One could not certainly state where its legs, covered with roots, began and the ground ended. On its arms grew an assortment of colorful fruits. It let out a hellish, gurgling roar with a gaping mouth, filling Andy's nostrils with the sharp smell of oranges.

After it had roared, Andy felt him senses dull as if sleep was about to come over him. He tried to run away, his movement slower than he had intended, before the beast pulled a long whip that looked like a strand of grass from the ground and stuck Andy, immediately jolting him awake and causing him to scream out in agony as his entire body began to sting. The beast continued to lash at the teenager, bloodying him. Andy was able to use his psychokinesis to direct the last lash directly above his head, giving him enough time to scramble onto his feet and dash away, his body stinging.

Afwerki winced horribly, sensing Andy's horrifying pain. He ran towards Andy and quickly placed his hands on his head, the bleeding slowly receding and his skin stitching itself back into place. Afwerki stepped back, sighing.

Andy shouted, pointing at the plant-based monstrosity. "Afwerki, watch out!"

Afwerki turned too late and soon found himself, crushed under the massive and obscenely heavy foot of the beast. It had missed his head but he still coughed up blood and barred his teeth while closing his eyes shut. The pain was unbearable,

Manic squealed in horror at the sight of his friend being crushed under the foot of the monster. Andy shook in rage, he was angry at himself for how poorly he had treated Afwerki a mere minute ago or so. "You bastard! You're gonna' pay!" he screamed, Manic leaping on his friend's back. Using their combined rage, the two created a red aura that enveloped them, the aura in the shape of a feral quadruped with a long, bushy tail and pointed ears. Andy and Manic bounded towards the beast, roaring. They simultaneously made a swipe at its arm, severing its right hand from its right arm. The beast quickly grabbed the two with its left hand and began to squeeze the duo, roaring directly in their face. The aura protected them from the beast's depressant breath. The two squirmed, breaking free with their sharp claws and tearing the beast's left hand to shreds. The two watched in dismay and the destroyed hands quickly regrew.

Afwerki took a deep breath, he was fading quickly. He tried to perform healing without his hands, theoretically, it was possible for he still possessed his mind. Afwerki's body began to softly glow as he closed his eyes and a few moments later, the boy rose, his body aching. As his body continued to glow, the aching receded. Due to the rain and constant change in lux in the area, Afwerki knew that bending light to turn himself invisible would be difficult but it was worth a try. Afwerki concentrated while looking at the beast, Andy, and Manic's battle. 

Andy sent a gust of wind towards the beast, sending him stumbling backwards. To his shock, a barrage of lumokenetic energy balls hit the beast's chest, blackening it as it stumbled backwards with every hit. Andy smiled. You're alive!

Smirking, Andy created a torrent of water and fired it at the beast's chest, hoping that he would blast a hole through the monster. Andy's heart sunk as the beast quickly grew twice its size.

Afwerki was behind Andy, livid. "Why in the world would you do that, brother!?" he cried.

"I thought it would kill 'em!" Andy responded, panicking.

"You thought water would kill a plant monster!?"

"I was scared, okay!? I hate these freaks of nature and I just want them dead!"

Awferki looked up grimly as the giant beast bounded towards him. As it brought down its giant whip, Afwerki created a shield. The PES created a shield for each time the beast brought down its whip, collected energy as he did. After the sixth strike, he spread his arms out and released a burst of light energy, charring it and causing it to tumble backwards.

Andy and Manic's eyes lit up. That's it! It's made out of vegetation! Andy and Manic closed their eyes, the area growing colder and colder as the rain quickly turned into hail that struck Afwerki. The beast's movement began to slow until it stopped completely, readying its whip. It was covered with a thin layer of frost.

Andy and Manic ran towards Afwerki. "Listen, we're going to kill this thing."

Afwerki nodded. "I think I know how, brother. I just need some energy."

Andy nodded, putting a hand on Manic's back as the hand portion of the aura began to waver somewhat. Afwerki closed his eyes, feeling hot energy course through his body as his mind raced. He was enveloped in a brilliant white glow. He opened his eyes, determined.

"Ready!" said Afwerki.

Andy nodded as he and his koala companion ran behind the beast.

Afwerki ran forward, the aura around him condensing in his hands in the form of a blindingly white blade. Andy ran towards the back of the beast, the limbs of the aura animal turning into very hard, very cold ice. The beast gave a roar as it thawed but it was too late. Afwerki stabbed the beast's stomach, burning a hole through it and setting it ablaze as it screamed in agony. Afwerki jumped backwards as Manic and Andy gave a vertical swipe at the beast with their front claws, creating a cross-slash as the beast began to chill before it dissolved into a pile of green dust. The wind blew the dust around, causing Afwerki to cough. The storm had disappeared as if it were never there and Manic and Andy dissipated their aura with a sigh.

Afwerki drew a ragged breath, doubled over. He chuckled shakily. "Do you still want to wait a while before getting that lily?"

Andy growled. "Like 'eck I do, mate!" Gaia's forest had showed it's true colors and the teenager was eager to leave. He turned to the plant, undisturbed despite the dangerous battle that had occurred a moment ago. He hastily jumped in the pond, waded through the stomach-high water, and grabbed the petite lily.

...

Gaia rose slowly out of the dirt in a dark part of the forest. The trees masked her face gave her a refreshingly cool shade which allowed wild mushrooms to thrive. Gaia was certain the Veggo-Behemoth would be more than enough to take down Juan's lackeys. Gaia turned, hearing the sounds of pounding feet and ragged breath. Gaia blinked in concern as Bisera and Afisa bounded into the area, gasping for air. Afisa's young spectacled caiman stomped into the area a second later. Gaia's heart sank. Why did they appear to have no energy?

"My daughters, what has happ-?" Gaia began to inquire, the worry in her voice dripping out like tears.

"PES, here, perverted, powerful." Afisa gasped, her face dripping with sweat.

Gaia blinked, leaning forward, her hands on her knees. "The PES? He's coming?"

Bisera nodded frantically. "Yes, Gaia." she said quickly before daring to take a swallow. "He's right after us, we tried our best to beat him but we had to run!" she stated.

Gaia frowned, rising as she heard the heavy footsteps approaching. "If he's here then we need to take him down immediately."

Bisera shook her head frantically. "No, we tried Gaia! He's too strong, he almost killed us!" she cried.

Gaia looked as if her two daughters had just been shot in the head at that moment. "What do you mean? How did-?"

Afisa turned, hearing the PES not too far behind. "Please mother, just take us home! We want to leave now!" she cried, tears streaming her face. "We're weak and tired and we can barely stand!"

Gaia closed her eyes, she swallowed but her spit tasted like sand. "Very well." she sad, distraught at the condition her daughters were in. She opened a portal and ushered her daughters and their familiars inside. Before she entered, she turned her head and saw Gojo Hashizawa bound towards her, angrily. She weakly raised a hand, sending a gust of wind, knocking the PES backward. Gaia grimly entered the bright portal before it closed.

...

Gojo angrily shoved aside a branch. He saw no sign of the witches he was pursuing but he did see a beautiful, inhumanly tall woman. Her blue hair flowed like the seven seas and she had the facial expression of infinite sadness. She stood in front of a bright, white portal, giving her the appearance of a mourning angel. Gojo ran towards her but suddenly found himself out of breath as he flew backwards in the air. He tumbled on the ground, body aching. He quickly looked up to discover the woman had disappeared. He pounded the ground angrily.

Gojo, the lily has been retrieved. The second part of your mission begins now. I take it you've dealt with the witches.

Gojo rose quickly looking around. "Old man!? That you!? Where you at!?"

I am speaking to you telepathically. Now isn't the time for dilly-dallying. Have you dealt with the witches?

Gojo sneered as he folded his arms. "I didn't get to kill 'em but they asses is gone, if that watchu' mean."

Well, either way you can carry out the rest of your mission without any difficulties. Follow my directions and head tot he center of this forest. There you will encounter a large tree. Use every ounce of your power to destroy it! 

"I ain't got my ride!" Gojo growled.

Fly then, boy! I'll get you another bike later!

Gojo grumbled before dashing out of the area, seeing the dirt part once again. He leapt towards the ground and began zooming forward, four feet above the ground, the wind flying through his hair.

Good, good. Now listen carefully...

Gojo followed his teacher's instructions and soon found himself at the tree described. It was an obscenely tall maple tree, at least one-hundred-thirty feet tall. Gojo smirked as he squatted. He released a burst of psychic energy at the tree, with no effect.

No, no boy! All of it! Use all of your energy!

Gojo frowned as he closed his eyes, visualizing the energy he'd need. He opened his eyes as let out an invisible burst of energy, the ground cracking beneath him and the air cracking with a distinct "boom" sound. The tree shook violently.

No Gojo, that is not enough. When I say "all" I mean every last drop of the psychic energy you have.

Gojo growled. "If you want it all, that's what yous gone get!"

He closed his eyes and put arms out in front of him. He began visualizing the tree and saw it burst in his mind. He began to grunt as he began to sweat. Memories of his childhood flashed in his mind. Men with clipboards and lab coats, a playground gradually emptying until he was the only one left, sleepless nights as his head felt like it was going to explode, being restrained as a beautiful woman with jet black hair was being escorted away, staring at a locket of said woman during so many sleepless nights. Gojo screamed, wanting the memories to leave as saliva dripped from his open mouth. His entire being felt as if it was splitting in two. He opened his eyes and a powerful burst of psychic energy shout out from his body and he flew twenty-five feet backwards in recoil. He clutched his head and looked as the tree turned a ghastly white before exploding with a satisfying boom. The entire forest turned red for a split second before it turned back to normal. Gojo watched as the trees quickly began to shed their leaves, looking like ghastly skeletons of their former selves. The trees began to dissolve as the animals scurried out of the forest. The trees dissolved with a loud hissing sound, the trees turning to dust. Once all the vegetation had dissolved, the forest was no more and Gojo found himself standing in flatland with a white overcast. Gojo turned and in the distance, saw Andy, Manic and Afwerki. He turned then saw Juan. Gojo's head rang.

...

Gaia sat in a field with an overcast. She looked sadly at her daughters, Bisera and Afisa who were deeply under a teal blanket, their sleep peaceful.

Because of me, Afisa and Afisa were almost killed and they used up all of the mana their bodies could handle. There's no telling what would have happened if they hadn't run into me. I'm a terrible, disgusting mother! Gaia clenched a fist before rising.

Juan has destroyed that forest...good. It's for the best. Now I know I'll be able to do what I must do. Gaia walked over to the edge of the field, staring at the sky, her sky.

Juan sat in his favorite, velvet cushioned chair. "Primeval Forest has been destroyed, stripping Gaia of a precious base. This will no doubt turn the tides of this war in our favor after yesterday's favor." he stated before taking a sip of hot chocolate then putting it back down on the small, wooden table next to his chair.

Kola stood behind her father, massaging his bald head. She frowned sadly. She couldn't help but believe yesterday's failure was due to her own incompetence. There he goes, having to break his back to fix my problems...I have to become perfect. "That is good father." Kola stated, masking her true feelings. "I know without a doubt that you will lead us to victory."

Kola jumped as her father abruptly rose from his seat he put his hands behind his back as he walked towards the fireplace. "I am certain I will win as well. Although this war has just begun I am certain..."

"You may think you have the high-ground but this war has jusr begun Juan Carlos. I will make sure..."

"...for her attempted crimes against humanity and..." continued Juan.

"...to stop your mad plot of murdering me..." continued Gaia.

"...by Summer's end..."

"....by the end of this Summer..."

Juan rose a defiant, claw-like hand. "I will slay Gaia!"

Gaia frowned, thrusting out a hand towards the heavens. "I shall eradicate Juan Carlos from the face of The Earth!"

Chapter Eighteen: Frigid HeartsEdit

The bathhouse that stood next to the spring of twilight was filled with witches who were using it to brush their teeth and wash their faces with the cold, fresh water that felt like a winter breeze upon their childish faces. Light streamed in from the large exit of the bathouse, illuminating the front of the area, which bore both the beautiful, green, marble sinks that looked like leaves, and the girls that utilized them.

Ever ashamed at her reflection for she deemed it ugly, Felicia made an effort at making sure her eyes did not look at the mirror as she brushed her sparkling white teeth. The beautiful teenage witch's back was turned towards the pristine mirror as she delicately, yet thoroughly cleansed her teeth of any impurities. After filling her small mouth with the rejuvenating water, Felicia spat almost silently into the sink before walking away with Kajsa at her heels. She couldn't get away from her reflection fast enough.

Inversely, Hélène brought her hand in front of her mouth and let out one of her famous shrill laughs. She sighed, putting a fist under her chin as she stared dreamily at herself. "Oh, how I wish you could escape from your glass prison and join me, me! I'd wrap my gorgeous arms around you and place sensual kisses upon every inch of your beautiful body!"  Hélène laughed again and stared at her reflection for a few moment longer before she wrestled herself away from the mirror with a sorrowful "until we meet again".

The display of conceitedness was enough to cause Afisa to roll her eyes in annoyance before leaving the area, not too far behind 

Xaviera's eyes were shut tight in defiance as she folded her arms and turned away from Bisera, who was crouched down in order to be at the girl's level. "Nuh-uh!" she refused, sticking her large pink tongue out at Bisera.

"You have to brush your teeth Xaviera, it's healthy." Bisera stated, a warm smile gracing her slightly tanned face.

The young girl opened her eyes, only to narrow them, her eyes looking like poised daggers. "I healthy just good without rubbing teeth!" Xaviera spat. "At home, me no be stupid and clean teeth just to dirty again and me perfectly fine!"

"When you don't brush or floss your teeth, food can get stuck in between your teeth, turning your mouth rancid and that can be dangerous for you because you can get really sick." said Bisera in a voice that sounded like a kind preschool teacher informing something to her young, impressionable students. "Your teeth can also turn yellow and start to get holes in them and that's no good."

"Me no get sick from food in me mouth, animals just get sick when I bite them when they live. Yellow teeth blend in gooder than dumbie white!" Xaviera angrily argued.

Bisera internally shuddered at the thought of Xaviera using her filthy teeth as a means to poisoining animals. "Here, you don't have to worry about biting animals to make them sick and die. You also don't have to worry about blending in to sneak up on animals."

"What about the PES?" Xaviera asked sharply.

Bisera blinked before sighing. Mother, your constant warnings aren't helping Xaviera. She's just replacing "animals" with the PES... "Well, regardless, you couldn't properly brush your teeth before. You can now and I'm sure you'll find brushing your teeth will make you stronger than not brushing your teeth." Bisera fished into manaspace and handed her a bottle of toothpaste before gently opening Xaviera's hand and placing her toothbrush in it. "The paste is all natural. One of the things in it are berries. I'm sure you'll find its not too different than what you're used to." Bisera said with a smile before walking away, trusting that her younger sister would make the right decision.

Xaviera begrudingly stared at the two objects in her hands. She was about to throw them on the ground before she remembered her desire to "be a flower". Besides for herself, she wanted to be a flower to combat percieved favortism. She recalled moments before that Felicia, the most beautiful flower of them all was brushing her teeth. If Felicia brushed her teeth and was beautiful, could Xaviera brush her teeth and be beautiful too? Xaviera stared at the wooden toothbrush with white bristles and the toothpaste before sighing and stomping over to the sink. She stood on her tiptoes, and tightly squeezed the brown tube with a death grip, ejected a large mound of green goo all over her toothbrush. Momma also probably want me do this and Bisera do too so this not just for Felicia! Xaviera shoved the brown stick into her mouth. She tried to replicate the movements of Felicia yet she commanded none of the delicacy, abrasively shoving the toothbrush every which way. She winced as a sharp pain shot from several of her teeth. Her mouth was soon filled with a green foam. She tried swallowing the foam before loudly spitting it out with disgust. She then turned the faucet, filled her mouth with cold water, gargled then forcefully spat it into the sink, droplets of water splashing on her face. She repeated the process three times before cutting off the water and quickly whipping her head to the right, noticing something in the corner of her eye.

The thing she noticed was in fact Amalija, glumly looking at her reflection. Amalija blew a breath. Her eyes were half-closed and behind her thick glasses were icy, green eyes, appearing as if they processed nothing. Under her eyes were thick, black bags, their depth only amplified by the magnifying effect of Amalija's spectacles. Although Xaviera was a light sleeper due to being on her toes in case of an animal attack, sleep deprivation and thus Amalija's bags, were totally alien to the feral witch.

Amalija didn't feel like moving, she thought she'd be content if she just feel over and stopped moving forever, then she thought that simply was a testament to how much of a hold The Devil had on her. Her shame and disgust at being a witch was only amplified due to Gaia's dance and at her aptitude for flying with a broom. She looked at her reflection pitifully, toucing the light purple hair that she regarded as hellish. I've lived a lie my entire life, attempting, like a fool to act as a child of God who'd spread the teachings of his son far a wide, bringing happiness everywhere she went. Yet, look at me now, I'm a witch, sent by The Devil to cause destruction. Somehow...I always knew, knew I was different, knew that I was a freak, a monstrosity. She shook her head. I can't go back now. I can't go back to my sisters and if I ever visited Cross Hill again, I'd burn like the demon I am. Her thoughts wandered to the mother she had never known. You thought that if you left me with people of God then I'd be saved. My poor, ignorant mother, no matter how much you pretty it up, you cannot make a beauty out of the beast... Amalija stepped away from the mirror and turned away from the mirror and towards the exit, shuffling slowly along, the world appearing to the girl in slow motion and in varying shades of gray. As she walked, it felt to her as if her boots were made of lead.

So absorbed was Amalija in her strangling feelings of self loathing that she didn't notice Xaviera run up to her on all fours before standing upright. Amalija only noticed Xaviera once she began talking, being practically slapped in the face by the mintiness of the girl's breath.

"Why you sluggish?" asked Xaviera, tilting her head with a frown. "When animals sluggish, that means they die."

Amalija winced in pain. Breakfast wasn't long ago, she felt that she might vomit all over Xaviera. "I guess that I'm going to die then?" she asked shakily.

Xaviera shrugged. "I just say what me see. You look it though. You sick?"

Xaviera felt Amalija's desoluteness wrapping around her as she shook her head. "No."

"You hurt?" asked Xaviera.

"No, I just...I'm just sad. I don't know what to do." Amalija sighed.

"Why you sad?"

"Because I'm a witch! A filthy, disgusting witch! I'm evil and I don't think...I know I don't deserve to live!" Amalija cried.

Xaviera simply blinked. "What make you bad? You be very good if not so grumpy."

"I wouldn't be so grumpy if I wasn't cursed with these demonic powers! Being a witch is all you've ever known!" snapped Amalija. "I at least have enough goodness to know that I'm supposed to die."

Xaviera's eyes narrowed.

"Come on Xaviera." called Afisa from the exit, causing Xaviera to turn towards her friend who was waving at her. "I found some really pretty flowers Xaviera, walk with me."

Xaviera ran towards the exit on all fours before stopping halfway and turning around. "If you live day, that mean you 'spose to live." Xaviera stated, somewhat darkly before running off to Afisa. Afisa looked at Amalija, noting the sadness that seemed to stem from deep inside her being. Afisa looked at her with a mixture of concern, sadness and sternness before disappearing from Amalija's view.

Meanwhile, Gaia was smiling at Lillian, giving her words of encouragment as she showed her the ropes on her training broom as the flew threw the forest. Gaia couldn't bear the thought of her daughter being left behind her sisters, flight-wsie. As Gaia took the time out of the day to tutor her, Lillian smiled despite herself.

...

Carmelo walked down the wide, stone halls of Juan's castle as light rushed in from the large windows on each side of the hall. He had enjoyed gourging himself during breakfast and was sure that his large meal of eggs, waffles, bacon, sasuage, orange juice, apples, hashbrowns, and cinnamon rolls would give him enough energy until lunch time. The psychic blew a breath as he made his way towards the courtyard, slumping forward as he walked. He was not looking forward to training yet he knew it was necessary to slay the witches. After all, after the big contribution of Andy, Manic, Gojo, and Afwerki the previous day, the least he could do was hone his powers.

Carmelo reached into the pocket of the red jacket he was wearing and fished out three Double-Stuf Oreos. Despite his colossal breakfast, there was still room in Carmelo's stomach for sugary snacks. If I'm gonna' train, I'll need to eat a whole lotta' sugar to make sure I don't get one of those migraines. Carmelo smirked; it wasn't the worst treatment. Not that I'm complainin'...

Into the teenager's teeth filled mouth two Oreos went, quickly being ground by his teeth. As the delicate chocolate went down his throat and the succulent white cream melted onto the teen's compliant pink tongue, Carmelo was forced to close his eyes. He could eat chocolate all day long. The third cookie soon followed soon. Carmelo was certain that no one was around. As Carmelo was eating the Oreo, he let out a low moan as he smiled with his eyes closed.

The next thing her knew, he felt a forceful pat at the back and an enthusiac, "What's up Carmy?" from Akmal. So surprised was Carmelo that he opened his eyes wide as he began to choke on the very thing he was enjoying seconds earlier. He heunched forward as he coughed, desperately gasping for air. His eyes widened further when he was granted none. Shit, shit, shit!

Akmal elbowed the hunched Carmelo's back, causing him to cough up the piece of the cookie that was slowly killing him. Carmelo breathed deeply, reveling in the sweet sensation of air filling up his lungs and joyously taking note of the rise and fall of his chest.

Akmal bent his knees and looked at Carmelo with concern. "Hey, are you all right?" he asked.

Carmelo quickly rose and stormed forward, with Akmal following close behind. Carmelo's face was red and hot with fury. "Jesus Christ, man!" he growled, denying Akmal a word of gratitude. "What the hellsamatter with you!? You could at least warn a guy before you scare the living shit out of them!" he barked.

Akmal blinked and scratched his head with a sheepish smirk. "I didn't exactly sneak up on you. I didn't run up to you quietly..." he quietly stated before awkardly trailing off.

Carmelo turned towards Akmal, sneering. "And did you call me Carmy?"

Akmal smiled. "Yeah, I did. I can call you that, right? We are friends after all." he said, with a wide, toothy smile.

Carmelo simply regarded him blankly. "No and no. We are not friends. We might be comrades or whatever but know that unless you do something really friggin' stupid, you're out of sight, out of mind. And if you call me "Carmy" ever again, you'll wake up with a foot up your ass. Got me?"

Akmal rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. I got you. You don't have to be such a sourpuss though." I want to say something else to describe him..

Carmelo slightly raised an eyebrow as he put an earbud in. Sourpuss, seriously? "It's standard procedure for most people."

Akmal folded his arms. "I'm guessing an exception is Joshua?" he smiled.

Carmelo sighed. "Buzz off." he commanded.

"You know, I'm surprised you haven't made a bunch of smart-alecy comments yet." stated Akmal.

Carmelo furrowed his eyebrows. "I'm sorry, "smart-alecy"? What are you, a forty-year old mother?" he bit.

"There it is, the Carmelo we all know and love." Akmal teased.

Carmelo rolled his eyes and sighed as he prepared to put his other earbud in his ear.

"Wait!" quickly called Akmal, causing Carmelo to slightly lower his earbud with an annoyed look. This isn't good Akmal. I need to get him at least kind of in a good mood. He'll never agree otherwise... Akmal quickly looked around, searching for a topic before his searching eyes landed on the ground at Carmelo's feet. Carmelo wore two flat, black leather shoes where the middle of the shoe featured a textured ring pattern and there was dark red and green fabric on both sides of the shoe. There was also a red line towards the bottom of the footwear. However, the feature of the shoe that caught Akmal's attention the most was the embossed Gucci logo on the heel of the shoe.

Akmal's eyes widened in amazement. "Whoa," he exclaimed. "Where'd you get those, how long have you had them, how much were those!?"

"What are you, a cop?" Carmelo spat.

Akmal shrugged with a sigh. "It's hopeless." he breathed. I'll just have to ask him. Carmelo's a grump no matter the occasion..."Anyway, I gotta' ask you something..."

Carmelo looked downward, diving headfirst towards memory lane. Even though I haven't had them for too long, these bad boys are pretty important to me. Let's see, when did I get them? About a year ago and they still look new, which shows how much  I care about them. I stumbled across them online one day and immediately knew I had to have them for two reasons: because I liked them and I needed a test. So I began to work my butt off to earn the money for them. I lost count of all the tables and dishes I had to wash because people can't clean up after themselves. After all that work, I finally got the money; all four-hundred-ninety-five dollars were earned by me. The shoes show that I don't need anyone's help to get by, I can do it all alone. These shoes are for me and no one else...

Carmelo blinked as Akmal snapped in front of his face.

"Earth to Carmelo."

Carmelo quickly grabbed the psychic's wrist and moved it away from him. "Don't do that again.

"Man, you were so lost in thought that I thought you were Joshua for a second." Akmal chuckled.

"Yeah, no. Me thinking about something once doesn't mean I'm addicted to it like it's fuckin' gutter glitter." he retorted.

Akmal shrugged. "Well, anyway. I wanted to ask you if you wanted to play PES-wide game of football at sundown. It'll be really awesome and I bet everyone will agree to play!" he smirked. "Of course, I wouldn't allow you to wear those shoes. My heart would break if those got dirty."

"Not interested." said Carmelo curtly before putting in his earbuds as jazz music began to play and he picke up his pace to distance himself from Akmal. I'd rather chill in my room then hang with a bunch of sweaty dudes but...maybe it could be fun...I'll ask Joshua how he feels about the football game...

...

Gaia, Ankur, the witches, and all of their familiars were in sitting in a circle in Gaia's forest, the girls sitting in various manners. This particular section of theforest was a type of wetland. The area that the group found themselves in offered hardly any trees. Instead, the grass was tall and a healthy green and the area was dotted with many small puddles of murky water. The group sat in a patch of short grass that was next to one of the aforementioned puddles. The girls were shaded due to the efforts of the clouds that formed an overcast overhead. Despite this, the girls still felt quite warm. Felicia noted that the area looked like the pictures of The Everglades that were in one of her father's books.

It had rained not too long before the girls had sat down, making the ground quite damp. Some, such as Zoe were able to position themselves so that the wetness was only a minor inconvinience while Lillian unfortunately had not strategically considered how to sit down so she carelessly plopped on the grass, soaking her panties. Afisa's spectacled caiman curiously regarded the other crocodilians who unassumingly waded through the water.

Amalija sat, staring at the ground desolutely. Kajsa meowed as he nudged his small furry body against Amalija's slightly chubby one in a vain attempt to get the girl to open up. Felicia had her fist in front of her mouth as she looked at her friend in concern. On the other side of Amalija, was Isabella who was gently shaking her by her shoulders with a sheepish smile.

"C'mon Leej, brighten up. You're really creepin' me the heck out, you know that?"

"One cannot light a candle in the eternal abyss..." said Amalija in a droning montone voice.

"Jeez, Leej, you're being really freaky, you know that?"

"In times of turbulence, the whispers of the heart become screams..." Amalija responded.

Everyone turned to Gaia as soon as she began speaking. "Yesterday, we suffered a great loss due to The PES. Juan and his soldiers infiltrated and stormed one of my personal favorite forests, The Forest of Sun. The Forest of Sun was a forest that I was fond of due to the abundance of life that was found there. I would frequently go to the forest to meditate. Besides relaxation, the forest served another, more tactical forest. The Forest of Sun, much like this forest was completely invisible to the PES. The forest's prescence strengthened our power and served as a wonderful base besides this one."

Zoe groaned at the word "base".

"Juan Carlos stole my precious mana-lily which is a source of constantly replenishing mana. I can only guess what he plans to do with that. The forest was destroyed when one of the PES destroyed the control tree, disintergrating the forest." Gaia shook her head sadly. "Bisera and Afisa were sent to scope the forest prior to me knowing of Juan's plot. They were brutally beat until they nearly died." Gaia choked, tears beginning to form in her yellow eyes.

Bisera gave a nervous smile as she waved her hands. "Forget about it mom! We made it out okay!" she consoled.

Gaia shook her head. "You two being passed out is not coming out okay." Gaia sighed. "Now that the Forest of Sun is destroyed, I must create another forest. The process is quite simple: simply plant a Life Seed then add the type of mana of the environment around you and voila, a Mana forest. The only stipulation is that the seed must be walked before it is planted. I know the place where I wish to plant the seed, ((Ny-Alesund)), an area in the country that humans refer to as "Norway". This is the perfect place to sprout a new forest because the richness of the life will make the forest bigger, Juan probably won't suspect that I opted to create a forest in an arctic environment, and it will be vastly different from the Forest of Sun." I could use some changes...

"Since I do not want to put any of you in danger, I shall go there myself. You will just have to recieve your teachings from Ankur today." Gaia stated.

Afisa quickly shot up, causing all eyes to dart towards her. She could feel that she had grabbed everyone's attention but she did not care. "Mother, let me go in your place! Learning lessons from you is very important and my sisters should not have to miss it."

Gaia frowned. "Absolutely not, my daughter. You are the last person I expected to want to be thrust in harm's way. After what happened yesterday, I can't put any of you in danger.

"We're in the middle of a war!" Afisa exploded. "How can you say that?! We'll be in danger and the only way to become better at surviving is practice. Please, I want to make up for my failure the other day."

Gaia shook her head sorrowfully. "No, Afisa...you don't need to prove yourself to me. I know you are capable."

"Then let me create the new forest mother. I'll murder every single PES if I have to." Afisa stated darkly, causing several of her sisters to squirm. Gaia turned nervously to Ankur who shared her expression. She didn't want to upset her daughter, even if she did develop bloodlust.

"I'd only feel comfortable if another person accompanied-" Gaia sighed.

Amalija rose, a wide smile on her face. "Then let me go." she interrupted. Everyone stared at Amalija, bafflement on their faces.

Gaia blinked, shocked at her sudden change of demeanor. "O-oh, are you certain Amalija?" she stated searching for words.

Amalija nodded. "I'd be delighted to go. This is just what I need and Afisa needs help. Please, allow me to go, mother."

Gaia recoiled slightly at Amalija calling her "mother". She turned to Ankur, who just shrugged his broad shoulders in bafflement. Everyone was weary of sending the very girl who earlier in the day they wouldn't have trusted alone with rope, bleach, a car or a gun away from them.

Herself sharing her sisters sentiment, Afisa nodded. "I'll make sure Amalija is safe." she said nervously, taking note of Amalija's warm smile.

Gaia nodded, still dazed. "Very well. I will create the portal momentarily."

Afisa turned to Isabella who mouthed to her a single command: Watch over her.

...

Amalija and Afisa trekked through the bitterly cold tundra. There was no wind, giving the air a still, hushed quality. Overhead, the sky was pure white, seeming to mimic the hard ground that the two girls walked upon. The girls walked ceaselessly through the low hills and long stretches of desolate-looking, frozen plains. Amalija shivered softly as she walked, her arms wrapped around her in an attempt to keep her body heat close together. Her head was tilted to her chest and her nose was a rosy red, standing in contrast with the girl's fair face. The black huddle known as Amalija that contrasted with the white area could be heard sniffling regularly to prevent her snot from dripping out of her nostrils.

Afisa however was not in the least bothered by the weather. To her, it was a relaxing spring stroll sans the breeze. She placed her hands nonchalantly behind her head as she walked. She looked at Amalija who was beginning to look like a popsicle.

The Russian witch recalled the words of her sister, Isabella, concern morphing her face as she frowned and raised her eyebrows. She feared that at any moment, Amalija would simply stop moving, becoming little more than a statue in what many would consider a frozen wasteland.

"Are you okay, Amalija?" asked Afisa. 

Amalija gave a small smile that appeared to be laced with sadness. "This cold, is nothing, if that's what you mean." the spectacled girl shivered, her breath visibly billowing out of her mouth like the smoke of a dragon.

Afisa forgot her concern as her frown gave way to a smile. Her fear had given way to another emotion: pride. "I'm happy to hear that Amalija. You're being so strong despite how hard this is for you." Afisa put her hands behind her back and gave a toothy grin. "I'm glad that you're my sister."

Amalija was silent, still wearing her strange, sad smile as she closed her eyes.

"You know, we all were really starting to get worried about you but you stepping up to join me and your actions now prove to me that you're all right." Afisa smiled.

Amalija blew a shuddering sigh that caused Afisa's heart to sink as she shook her head, her body still shivering. "I think you misunderstand. When I said, "this cold is nothing", I wasn't saying it out of humbleness." she revealed.

Afisa blinked in confusion. "Then what did you mean by it."

"I meant that this physical coldness does not compare to the coldness of my heart." Amalija stated, staring at the ground. Before Afisa had a chance to inquire further, Amalija continued to speak. "Don't even say it isn't because it is. My heart has been struck with an eternal pain, slowly freezing over as I come to grips what I am. I can't fight the fact that I'm a demonic spawn of hell any longer..."

Afisa blinked and turned away as she tugged on the brim of her hat. Her vision became fuzzy as a memory ran to the foreground of her mind. The memory of her laying on her grandmother's lap so many years ago, staring at a picture of a woman who looked like an older version of her and a younger version of her beloved grandmother. The young Afisa turned to her grandmother with a smile, but to her dismay, tears were streaming down her grandmother's single, green eye. I wondered why you cry, yet I know now. 

Afisa curled her hand into a shaking, trembling fist that seemed like blood might spill from it if Afisa used any more force. The witch's voice was tight, barely containing her rage. "You are not evil, Amalija..."

Amalija smiled pitifully. "I am a witch, aren't I?" she asked.

Afisa took a deep breath, it was all she could do to keep from screaming Amalija's head off right then and there. "Why are you here anyway?"

"I was wondering when you'd ask. Your friend Xaviera told me that if I live another day, that means I'm supposed to live. Well, I know that I'm not supposed to live so I thought I'd take it upon myself to get myself killed. This way, I don't have to do it and it looks like it was an accident."

Afisa was silent as her face darkened.

"I mean, I'm going to burn in hell anyway, why prolong it? I should rid this world of my demonic prescence, it's only the right thing to-"

"...shut up..." commanded Afisa quietly.

"I can not live knowing that I'm a-" Amalija continued.

"I said shut your face Amalija!" Afisa angrily shouted, causing Amalija to jump back in fright. Afisa's passionate command echoed throughout the land for a minute before finally fading into the ether. Before Amalija could say anything, Afisa darkly stated through gritted teeth, "I don't want to hear another word out of your mouth. Fall back a bit, I don't even want to see you."

"I'll just go away and lay down on some sn-"

"Oh no you won't! You're not going to kill yourself on my watch so you better march like you mean and if you die, God so help me I'll follow you wherever you go and make you wish you had lived!" Afisa threatened with a growl before picking up her pace. She closed her eyes. She remembered sitting in front of a fireplace, clutching a framed picture of a woman with soft, green eyes and brown hair that reached down to her legs. She wouldn't forget the woman's smile as long as she lived for it lived on in her. Afisa swallowd as she recalled Gaia telling her what had happened to her mother. Killed, you were killed because of what you were... In her mind, Afisa saw the eyepatch over where her grandmom's left eye should have been. All this pain and suffering because of people who can't accept what we are. All this pain and suffering because of wicked people, evil people. She grew hot with red wrath as she thought of the psychic that attacked her and Bisera. I'll destroy them, I have to! I won't let anyone suffer!

Amalija simply walked on, patiently awaiting her death, unaware of the turmoil she had reminded Afisa of.

...

"Sloppy." Kola flatly chastised as she watched Zack reel back in pain after recieving a swift and powerful kick to the stomach. The spiky-haired psychic looked as if he would throw-up. Kola folded her arms. "Oh, please. Consider yourself fortunate that I didn't use your insane momentum to flip you. Take your little-tummy ache as opposed to being splattered on the floor."

The PES were in a large, bright white training room. The punching bag, treadmills and other excercising tools were moved to the sides of the room to make more room for the group training excercise.

Fearlessly, Kola quickly stepped around Carmelo, his punch aimed at the woman's stomach only meeting air. Kola was now directly behind Carmelo. The young woman quickly dropped to the ground, brought her legs close to her body, planted her palms flat on the ground and gave a bucking-like kick with both of her legs towards Carmelo's back, sending him flying into the air and crashing into the wall.

Kola slowly picked herself up and turned to the boy, who had fallen onto a treadmill, face-first. She folded her arms. "That was better, a sneak-attack is always good. However, you need to be faster. Your attack would have connected if you were quicker. Furthermore, it isn't all over once the enemy spots you. I should not have managed to get behind and stay behind you long enough for me to kick you into the air. Why were you simply standing there? Do you want to die?"

Carmelo grumbled "Yeah, well if I was usin' my powers, you'd be toast."

Kola leaned forward, eyebrows raised as she put a hand near her ear. "What was that? Maybe you'd be close enough to hear if you knew hoe combat worked."

Afwerki was on the other side of the room, his face glistening with perspiration. "Um, Ms. Kola? iI I may, why are we working on our form exactly? We'll be using psycokinesis to fight the witches."

"While that is true, overexterting your mind will cause you to pass out. It may be necessary to fight the witches using your fists alone. Furthermore, augmenting your power with martial arts can actually make it more deadly and vice-versa. Now, come on, the witches won't wait."

Kola turned to Gojo who bore a cocky grin. "Imma' just sit this one out. I don't wanna' hurt you, babe." he said licking his lips. "You just play with dose bozos."

Someone sure has a big head. All the more fun to break him down then. Kola was a veteran of espionage, and as such she was accustomed to utilizing certain masks to further her goals. One day it could be the sheltered daughter of a billionaire, another it could be a depressed widow, on yet another it could be a flirtatious college girl, and some days she could just be the cold-blooded assasin she usually was. This time, she put on the mask that conveyed Gojo's sexual desires.

Kola pouted, her pinkish-brown lips puckering as if they practically screamed to be kissed. She looked so vulnerable, so weak. She unzipped some of her black body-suit, revealing her brown cleavage. Her two breasts were coated in a thin layer of sweat, giving them an erotic sheen. A large portion of her bra-less bosom was visible, revealing two massive half-spheres that looked like the globes of some smooth, brown planet. Kola's breasts seemed to be bursting from her unzipped suit, threatening to spill out into the room for all to see, and no one seemed to mind if they did. Kola walked towards Gojo, her hot, heavy breasts jiggling tieasingly with every step, causing Gojo's eyes to widen. Kola inserted her slended pinky finger into her mouth, between her two canines.

"Oh really, Gojo-sama? Whoever bests me gets to spend an entire nut with me." she said, sounding disappointed. "I get so lonely sometimes and I wanted it to be you since you're so big and strong."

Gojo licked his lips, his blazing lust convinving him to fight. "If that's what you want baby! I'll beat you up now then I'll do it tonight!" he cried before rushing forward.

Kola giggled before her smile melted into her cold, neutral expression. As Gojo threw a punch, Kola grabbed the boy's arm and flipped him over her head and into the ground, creating cracks where the thick boy landed. Kola folded her arms as she zipped up her suit, trapping her breasts once more. "What's wrong Gojo-chan?" she mocked. "Not man enough to "beat me up"?"

Gojo growled as he rose. "Just you wait toots! Imma'-!" but before he could do anything, Kola grabbed the boy and began savagely headbutting him, causing him to see stars and golden birds as he staggered around, dazed. If Kola was hurt by her headbutt, she didn't show it. She simply jump, gave a spinning, flipping kick to the boy's chin and send him into the air before falling on his back.

That's what you get for huring Joshua the other day, you disgusting orc.

At the sound of Joshua's voice, Kola turned. Oh no, can he hear my thoughts?

"That I can." said Joshua, walking towards Kola with a smile. "I was wondering if you could try me on for size. I promise I won't go down easily, I have a fifth degree black belt, you know."

Kola smirked. "Rank has little merit, with me. Only experience will prove your worth." Your mind is blank, focus on the task. Your mind is blank, focus on the task....

"Very well then." Joshua ran towards Kola, with Kola doing likewise. Yourmindisblank,focusonthetask.Yourmindisblank,focusonthetask.

Kola dropped into a roll before springing up and grabbing Joshua before quickly kneeing him in the stomach. He took a few steps back before swiftly cartwheeling away from a punch from Kola that seemed to send energy through the air. He quickly stepped forward and moved his arm towards Kola's head, which  she blocked by using her own arms. She threw a punch towards the boy's face, forcing him to hold up his arms to create a wall, pushing him back and causing his bones to ache. Kola relentless ran forward and threw another punch, this time resulting in Joshua moving her arm away by creating a wide "wiping motion" with his right arm, causing him to wince in pain due to the impact. Kola then gave an upercut towards Joshua's gut, causing him to breath deeply with his mouth wide.

Kola smirked. "You seem to know what you're doing, unlike your fellow PES. Have you had enough."

Joshua ignored the pain in his stomach. "Sorry, angel, I'm just getting warmed up. You need a compotent sparring partner, don't you?"

Kola smirked. "That I do." she answered before running towards Joshua. Yourmindisblank,focusonthetask.

..

Meanwhile, in the frozen tundra, Luuk was trekking, shivering. Master Juan's sensors had detected thar the witches were in this area, it was simply a matter of tracking the hellish swine down. Luuk had volunteered without hesitation, for he knew it his duty to vanquish the world of evil. He ignored the empty, biting cold. He was bathed in a warm glow, courtesy of his lumokinesis. Luuk considered the light a blessing from The Lord himself, a sign that his Father had entrusted him with the task of saving the planet.

"Evil can run, but it cannot hide. I am Luuk, The Holy One. I shall not shirk from my duty to murder the vile witches. With them gone I can help usher in The New World, one absolved of all sin and strife." Luuk raised a hand towards the white sun that was high in the sky. "I am devoted to you My Lord. That is why I will slay the agents of lucifer! As The Fair Master Juan as the general, and you as my commander, I shall not lose this Holy War!"

Chapter Nineteen: Frigid Hearts: ConclusionEdit

Afisa and Amalija arrived at their destination as described as by Gaia. The further they walked, the more the environment appeared to change. The two witches found themselves in the middle of a small establishment, where instead of snow, the girls stood on furtive brownish-yellow grass that seemed to be more dirt than plant. The sky was a bright white and the girls stared at the large, pristine lake that was at the land's edge. The entire area was soothing, perfect for a greeting card. Due to the desolate landscape the girls had trekked through, the location that the girls found themselves in seemed downright heavenly. Even the temperature warmed the girls, Amalija now longer shivering.

Ny-Alesund was a fledgling little research town that sat in front of a lake on one side and far in front of snow-capped mountains on the other, giving it a picturesque quality. Only a few modest buildings dotted the research town, a fact that some might scoff pathetic but other marvel at how it causes the town to unobtrusively spring from the natural landscape, like spring daisies. Afisa looked and spotted a few people milling about. Despite their stark black witch garb, she didn't think anyone noticed them.

The long, silent walk had worked wonders for Afisa's nerves. She turned to Amalija warily. The spectacled teenager's head was still turned towards the ground but her face neither bore a depressed frown nor a slightly unhinged smile. 

Okay, so she's still all humdrum but not volatile, I'm guessing... Afisa coughed into her fist in order to clear her throat. "Gaia mentioned having to plant the seed between the water and the mountains so we just have a bit more to walk." Afisa stated.

Amalija nodded as she continued to follow Afisa. Soon, the two had found themselves at the designated area. Afisa closed her eyes. She hasn't opened her mouth, good. She began fishing through manaspace, searching for the seed.

Afisa frowned in annoyance, Amalija daring to speak again. She shook her head. "Darn, and here I was praying that I'd get to die today, so I wouldn't have to live as an agent of evil." Amalija closed her eyes. "And here I am now, helping create another bastion of the devil."

"I thought I said I didn't want to hear another word." stated Afisa tensely.

"I can't help it, each and every time I think about what I am I want to vomit!" cried Amalija.

"But why!? Why does it make you want to throw up Amalija?!" asked Afisa, now concerned as much as she was angry.

"Because I'm evil, I'm de-"

"Who says? Who the actual heck says!?"

Amalija blinked, somewhat taken aback. "Well, it's obvious. Witchcraft is inherently evil."

"And you believe that garbage just because society tells you to? There's nothing wrong with being a witch. You haven't done anything bad."

Amalija frowned, growing angry. "Everything is wrong with being a witch. They're bad and soulless. Simply being a witch is bad enough."

Afisa stepped back as if shot. She looked into Amalija's flaming, green eyes. Although she was angry at Amalija for being so heartless, she knew this cruelty stemmed from her own self-loathing. She wondered if giving an example of this horrible stigma against witches would show Amalija how truly disgusting she was bring. Afisa felt herself go stiff. She knew who she'd use.

"So," began Afisa, making sure to maintain her compusure. "You hate witches, correct?"

Amalija shakily nodded.

"So, I'm sure you can sympathise. A man falls in love with a woman and concieves a child with her. Unfortunately, the woman turns out to be a witch so, like the good person he is, the man brutally murders the woman and attempts to kill his own daughter, only to be thwarted."

Amalija regared Afisa in horror.

"Furthermore, the baby's grandmother is a witch. To weaken her magical powers, the grandmother rips her eyeball out. Thus, the grandmother is purified of her witch..-iness." Afisa awkwardly concluded. "So, do you think it was right for the father to do that?"

Amalija shook her head. "Absolutely not, that's horrible!"

Afisa raised her eyebrows. "Oh, but I thought witches were evil creatures of hell."

Amalija bit her thumb. "They don't deserve to be k-" Wait a second, I don't think anyone should be murdered, witches included but I came here to kill myself...listening to that horrible story, maybe I've been looking at this in a grossly inadequate manner.

"And do you condone the society that forced the grandmother to lock her magic?"

"..no.." Amalija admitted, imagining the suffering. Even if her powers were locked, she was still a witch and she shouldn't have to go through so much trauma considering that she has a baby to take care of. I'd never harm anyone...the thought of me personally bringing harm on someone repulses me yet...I guess that's what my words conveyed...

Afisa walked closer. "Want to know a secret? That baby was me. My father murdered my mother because she was a witch."

Amalija's eyes widened as she covered her mouth with her trembling hands. Oh god...how could I be so inconsiderate? So selfish? All this time I've been thinking about me, me, me when there are actual people out there suffering. People robbed of happiness. I've used the revelation of me being a witch as an excuse to spit in the face of all my teachings. "I didn't know...I'm so sorry Afisa. That's horrible." she breathed.

Afisa turned away with a hurt smirk. "Yeah, the three of us being witches is horrible.."

Amalija stepped forward, pained. "No, you can't control that. You shouldn't be ashamed..." Why can't I take my own advice? "Listen, I-I apologize if I offended you and...I...I"

The two heard a small whistling sound. Amalija thought it a bird but Afisa's eyes widened. Afisa used all of her strength to shove her heavier sister away, shrieking as a bright, almost ethereal arrow pierced the side of her abdomen, the arrowhead jutting out of her back.

Amalija fell to the ground and looked up at her sister in shock. She grew as pale as a sheet as crimson red began to form around her wound and drip to the ground. She thought she'd be sick as she frantically scanned the area for the assailant.

Afisa felt a searingly hot sensation spread throughot her body. She gritted her teeth in pain, fighting off tears as her entire body felt engulfed in flames. She tried to yank the arrow out of her body but shrieked once she made contact with the object, yanking her burning hand away.

As suddenly as it appeared, the arrow dissipated, causing Afisa to sigh with relief and drop to the ground, using her arm as support. The two witches looked frantically around until they locked eyes with the perpretator.

Near the buildings and the lake was a boy with short, somewhat messy, golden blond hair. His posture was purposeful and his body was chiseled. His features were somewhat soft and his small, smug smile seemed to warm Afisa's heart, despite herself. His cool blue eyes seemed to convey that this young man was just, or at least the would if he were not obviously a PES. As another light arrow floated on stand-by besides the boy's body, Afisa thought he would be absolutely stunning if he were not a PES.

Yet he was, for Afisa swore she could feel the wickedness, the cruelty oozing from every pore of his body. Afisa felt him looking down on them, causing her to growl. Her vision darkened as she  remembered the vile sight of the PES from the previous day on top of Bisera, robbing her of breath as he savagely beat her, causing her skin to blacken and her teeth to spill from her mouth. Even though she could not fathom a word he said for the life of her, she could clearly make out the unadulterated rage as the fucker's lip curled and his eyes were enflamed with wrath. He was like a wild animal, they all were.

The PES turned, saying something to the people who regarded him dubiously, before turning to the witches. The PES said something in a booming voice aimed towards the heaven before he sent another arrow zipping towards the witches. Afisa quickly stood up, wincing as she pressed her hand tightly against her bleeding wound. Fearfully, she turned towards the arrow which was heading straight for Amalija's head, who was still on the ground paralyzed with fear.

This was it, the moment she had been looking forward to since she woke up: her demise. Now that it was quickly approaching, she was rethinking her decision. She could not say with certainty now that she did not want to live. However, in a cruel instance of irony, she was now paralyzed with fear when she was questioning her decision to die. She simply stared at her impeding doom, her life flashing before her eyes. In her vision, she saw recalled mass prayer, running a food drive, swimming with her sisters, and her most favorite memory: her visit to The Hill of Crosses, what she considered as the ultimate icon of faith.

"Get up, Amalija!" screamed Afisa her face twisting ugoly with fear was she ran her fingers through her hair. Even though she clearly recalled her rage at the evnts from the previous day, she most vividly remembered the gut-wrenching sorrow. She remembered her vision blurred by tears, her breathing ragged as she looked upon Bisera who bore a ghoulish slit throat that constantly spewed blood. She horrifyingly recalled Bisera struggling to get a sentence out before she coughed up salty blood on Afisa's tearful face. She hated the PES with all her heart, but she loved her sisters so much more.

Amalija's eyes widened in shock once a drop of Afisa's blood splattered on the slightly chubby witch's cheeck. The front of an arrow poking out from the lower center of the blond witch's back. Afisa's arms were held out at her sides, shielding her fellow witch. Amalija shook her head. "Why? Why would you do that Afisa?"

Afisa turned slightly, with a slight smile. "I said you weren't dying on my watch, didn't I?" she asked. "I'll protect you, even if that means dying myself."

Amalija rose, frowning while shaking her head. "Don't say that..."

"It's true."  Afisa replied before she tigthly grabbed the arrow, ignoring the pain. She gave a pained gasp as she yanked the arrow out and tossed it overhead, the weapon exploding in mid-air.

"But..couldn't you have just used a spell to deflect the arrow instead of just using your body as a shield?" asked Amalija.

"..."

"..."

Afisa shook her head with a smile. "Heh, even though you were annoying earlier, I'm sure glad you decided to come along. You can be like the brains, and I guess I'll be the brawn." Out of Afisa's black sleeve slipped out her brown wand, her tool to level out the playing field against the monsters known as the PES. Afisa offensively pointed her wand at the PES who had his arm folded before she winced. She turned her eyes downward towards the bloody pools on her dress. Right, I can't attack and hold my wounds at the same time. I'll make this quick then.

Amalija shakily held her wand in front of her. "Okay, I'll fight too!" she announced, not wanting Afisa to become more injured for her sake. 

The PES member fired a barrage of light arrows at Afisa with a smirk. 

The witch gripped her wand tightly. She wouldn't lose this time. "Icera!" she shouted, created a barrage of long, teal icicles to counter the arrows. In order to counter the arrows, Afisa sacrificed the spell's damage output in order to vastly increase the total number of icicles. Her heart sank once the arrows pierced through the icicles, her attack only slowing the arrows down rather than outright stopping them.

"Run out of the way!" cried Amalija, running away from the arrows. Afisa did the same before turning around and firing a fire spell, doing her damndest to ignore her pain. The PES quickly dashed out of the way before flicking his hand, sending Afisa doubling back as she felt a sharp pain at her stomach. She turned in horror as Amalija fell to the ground, covered in white flames.

Amalija's eyes were wide in fear as she frantically rolled around, the strange flams feeling as if they were corroding her very soul. It felt as if she was taking a large sniff of bleach.

Afisa pointed her wand at Afisa, too panicked to be caught in the sweet enthrall of using magic. "Watera!" she cried, to no avail. She turned to the PES, she could at least make sure that the PES did not hurt her sister further. "Watera!" she cried again, creating a fierce torrent of water that pushed the PES backwards as she took small steps forward, hoping to overwhelm the psychic. With each step, blood dripped onto the cold dirt.

Amalija was utterly dumbfounded and terrified after being doused with water yet still enfulfed in white flames. Amalija closed her eyes and took deep breaths despite how much agaony she was under. She thought of God and suddenly, the flames were gone. She stood up in amazement, wondering if the flames were ever there. Her hands were very reddened and her body uncomfortably tingled so she determined that the flames were indeed there.

The PES tried to move out of the way of the torrent of water but he was just pushed backwards, the blond teen tumbling like a bowling ball. Afisa ran towards the PES. He quickly stood up, held his hands at his side as he began to glow brillaintly like a holy being, then brought his hands together, creating a bright ball that launched forward. So fast was the sphere that Afisa was not able to dodge it before it connected with her stomach, causing her to cry in pain as she stumbled backwards.

Amalija shivered due to her wetness and ran forward before coming to a halt. She held her wand in front of her body stiffly with a frown, feet apart and planted firmly on the ground. "Catapo!" she cried, causing a long, green spiral spell to shoot out of the end of her wand before it collided with the PES, causing him to flip high into the air. To her horror, the PES didn't find himself face-first on the ground as she expected, instead, he started flying through the air.

When Amalija didn't think things could get worse, she turned aware of Afisa flailing her hands wildly about. "I can't see!" she cried. "I can't see!"

Sweat began to form of Amalija's face. "What do you mean you can't see!?" she cried, rushing over to her and bending down, as she helped the witch sit up.

Afisa blinked rapidly, as if trying to get dust out of her eyes. "Wait, it's coming back to me..everything is really bright though..."

"Then get up. He's coming!" warned Amalija.

At her sister's warning, Afisa quickly stood up. Due to the swiftness of her rising, she felt as if she would pass out. Sure enough, there the PES was, flying above the ground, circling the girls like a hawk. He fired a barrage of arrows at them.

"Amalija, flip those away, would you?" asked Afisa, tensely.

Amalija nodded and began casting catapo on the arrows, flipping them safely away from the two witches.

Meanwhile, Afisa held her wand in front of her, looking for the right time to cast her spell. She could feel the mana of the environment flowing into her body. In front of where she predicted the PES would fly, she fired a fireball at her opponent, sending him spiraling backwards as he was hit by a concussive blast of flame. Afisa have a ragged sigh, as she closed her eyes. She felt extremely light-headed and everything seemed just a tad too bright.

"Afisa, behind you!" cried Amalija.

Afisa quickly opened her eyes and turned around but before she react, she felt a strong, chocking force around her neck as she slowly rose off the ground. With hatred in her eyes, she looked down at the PES, who was smiling smugly as he said something in that gross language of his. She soon found herself flying flying helplessly through the air. She gasped as she was slammed to the ground via psychokinesis. She screamed as she found herself engulfed in white flames. Before she knew it, she was in the air again.

Amalija was helpless to aid Afisa and the next thing she knew, the witch was barelling towards her at high-speed. Amalija tried to move out the way but before she could get out the way, Afisa's head had collided with her head, causing the witch to slump down to the ground in pain. She saw bright, shining stars as she stoof up, clutching her head with a pained, low groan. Amalija saw Afisa, face-down on the ground, motionless. The flames had disappeared, allowing Amalija to fearfully turn Afisa over, feeling for a pulse. She sighed once she found one. She was knocked out cold and losing blood, yet she was still alive.

Amalija gave a pained frown. "Afisa..." she softly whispered as she knelt down, looking at Afisa's blank facial expression. She quickly looked up at the cool-headed, slowly approaching PES. Each step seemed to convey an untold amount of purpose. Afisa blinked this was her chance. Afisa was unconcious, no one would stop her from letting herself be murdered at the hands of the approaching psychic. How easy it would be to die now, let herself be taken to Heaven or Hell, to not have to wrestle with the question of whether she was evil or not.

Amalija blinked, seeing the aperation of a small girl with brown skin and extrmemely long hair. She was about a foot and a half or so shorter than her. She was Xaviera. She looked up at the teen with stern eyes and furrowed eyebrows. 

"If you live day, that mean you 'spose to live." stated Xaviera before blowing away, like dust in the wind.

Amalija tightly gripped her wand. No...no, I can't just roll over and let myself be killed. Xaviera's right, if wake up tomorrow, that means I'm meant to live. I'm going to give it my all, I'll fight tooth and nail and if I die, I guess that means I'm truly not meant to be but as long ad I'm breathing, I'll fight because I know that it's not God's choice if I die standing idle, it'll be mine. Besides...she turned to her friend. She's in this state because she was protecting me. The leastI could do is protect her. I can't die because if I die, she'll die too!

So for the first time since Gaia revealed to her that she was a which when she was plucked her from her convent, Amalija put on her game face. She stared down the approaching PES with defiance. Amalija used her right index finger to adjust her glasses and adjusted her hat so it would fit more snugly on her head head she cracked her knuckles and her neck joints.

She was Sister Amalija: a proud nun and a fledgling witch. She wouldn't meet her end today for she loved both her Father and her mother and she didn't want to see either of them weep due to her.

"Let's do this." she said. She quickly stepped away from her sister to ensure she wouldn't get hurt further from an attack.

The PES fired a barrage of light spheres at Amalija. The witch raised her wand high above her head, gripping tightly with both hands. "Shield!" she cried, creating a purple magical barrier around the two. After it took the force of all the balls, which shattered on impact, the barrier dissolved. The PES tilted his head before firing a beam of light energy. Amalija knew she could create a brief shield that lasted a split second for the maximum effect but she didn't have much faith in her timing so she opted for the usual shield. She did so and the shield shatered like glass. Although the shield had weakened the attack, Amalija was still knocked backwards forcefully.

Amalija then found herself flying in the opposite direction, towards the PES as he smiled and created what appeared to be a spear of light in his hands. Amalija barred her teeth as she held her wand in front of her. "Catapo!" she cried, creating a greeen spiral that was made more effective due to her speed. The PES's eyes widened in shock before he flipped high into the air and Amalija fell to the ground with a grunt, skidding. Amalija quickly rose and dashed towards her friend.

At that moment, Amalija regretted not practicing magic. She shunned it as sinful witchcraft but it would sure save her skin to at least know an effective fire spell. Her only sure-fire tools were shields and light magic.

Amalija dropped to her knees, sliding forward until she stopped at Afisa's head. She wasn't even that good at healing magic. Even so, she'd have to try for Afisa's sake. Amalija closed her eyes and touched her wand to Afisa's exposed naval. She focused intensely about the vegetationan around her, feeling a small amount of mana enter her body, causing her to shiver with delight. This very sensation was one of the reasons she so abhored using magic in the past days. "Cure." she said, hoping her spell would work. To her relief, the spell did work as the end of her wand glowed softly and flower buds appeared on the ground next to her wounded friend.

Amalija ceased the spell and turned towards a zooming arrow, causing her to erect a shield. She stood up and closed her eyes, focusing on the cold environment around her. She held her wand in front of her. "Ice!" she called, a large icicle shooting from her wand and zipping towards the blue-eyed PES. To her horror, he seemed to summon a shield, shattering the icicle on impact. He turned towards the mountains and soon, a large trail of snow was flying from the mountains toward the battle field.

I somehow have to get him away from me long enough to heal Afisa. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. "Light!" she cried, causing a blinding flash of light to envelope the area. Once the light faded, the trail of snow was on the ground as water and the PES covered his brilliant eyes in agony, blinded. Amalija ran to Afisa and continued to heal her, noticing the wounds very slowly patch themselves together. So focused was Amalija that she didn't notice the PES reagining his vision before angrily proceeding to create a large number of light balls, light spears, and light arrows. He sent them barreling towards the two witches and Amalija turned only with enough time to notice what was about to turn her into a pincushion.

Afisa gasped as Albertas seemed to appear out of thin air at her feet, the young Galapogos tortoise familiar seeming to smile at her. She smiled back as the tortoise created a large, powerful shield. The witch put her head on the tortoise's shell, showing her affection. The shield dispersed and the PES shoved the witch away from her companions. Amalija was laying on the ground. She brought her head up to see that the wounded Afisa had also ben shoved, leaving a small trail of blood. Albertas seemed unaffected, still upright as he walked slowly towards Afisa.

Amalija closed her eyes, wondering what to do while also focusing on collecting the mana in the environment. Amalija opened her eyes as she was thrust in the air before she could execute a spell. To her amazement, she simply began floating. She turned to Albertas who was turned toward her. She smiled before turning to the PES and casting a light spell at him, blasting him backwards. She landed safely on the ground and began running towards Afisa when she heard the PES growl and fire another beam of light at her. 

Amalija closed her eyes as the beam came near and a flash of light appeared. Once the flash was gone, the beam was also gone and she was unharmed. The PES fired a bqll of light at the witch with the same exact effect. As she was running, she turned to a building and shot a small stone at it from her wand. It bounce off the building and hit the PES on the side of the head, causing him to slump down.

Amalija smiled. I'm so glad I didn't miss. She once again began healing Afisa, this time getting close so she could heal herself as well, her headache gradually receding. She smiled as she began to hear Afisa breathing. She turned in horror to see Albertas had been flipped upside down, the young tortoise flailing its limps wildly in a vain attempt to right himself. Amalija then turned to look at the PES and her heart sank at what she saw: a countless number of light arrows froming around the blond psychic, all pointed towards Amalija and Afisa. The former ignored it, focusing on healing her friend. Soon, Afisa was stirring. Amalija heard the sound of arrows zipping through the air and she closed her eyes tight. She felt swift movement next to her.

"Fira!" cried Afisa before the sound of crackling flames were heard.

Amalija opened her eyes with a gasp and looked up at Afisa, who was standing in front of  her, eyes wide. In front of them was a tall wall of flame. A smile spread on Amalija's face. "You're okay." she breathed, grateful.

"It's thanks to you." stated Afisa. "Why did you risk your life to help me, why didn't you save yourself?" she asked.

Amalija smiled warmly. "Because I know you'd do the same for me. Besides, we're sisters."

Afisa blinked, taken aback by her sister's statement before smiling. "We sure are."

Amalija rose as the fire wall began to fade. "Ready to finish this?" she asked.

Afisa nodded, cockily. "Yeah, let's roast this pig!" she stated.

The wall vanished, the two were ready to rumble once more. Amalija ran towards the downed total. "First thing's first, I'm going to help Albertas, I suggest you bring your familiar too."

"Got it!" confirmed Afisa. The witch whistled. "Natasha!" she called, prompting her spectacled caiman to appear suddenly, crawling from between the witch's legs, regarding the PES with a ghoulish smile. Afisa snapped and pointed at the PES.

Amalija had made it over to her Albertas and with a shove, the tortoise rolled onto his feet. He gratefully nudged the witch with his head. The two looked up to see the PES running towards them when he howled in pain, Natasha chomping down on his legs with flame-coated teeth. Amalija smiled as she sat touched Alberta's shell which helped her collect mana more eaily.

"Light!" shouted Amalija, shooting a blast of light at the PES, sending him stumbling backwards in pain.

"Fira!" called Afisa before a fire blast shot outfrom her wand and knocked the PES onto the ground. Afisa ran over to Afisa.

"Amalija, remember one of the hexes some of us were practicing? The Random Sick Hex?" asked Afisa.

Amalija nodded. "I do."

"Let's try it out. I'll get the fish. You get some dirt and keep him at bay."

Amalija nodded as she took outher wand. She wasn't sure she'd be able to effectively inflict the hex. She especially was wary of the hexes since they were the stereotypical witch curses but she'd at least try for the sakes of her, Albertas, Natasha and Afisa. Amalija scooped up some dirt and stuffed it into mana space. She saw the blond PES flying towards her and sent repeated catapoes his way, knocking him further and further back yet not grounding him once out range, she missed and the PES changed his course. Amalija panicked as he weaved out of the way of her spells. She closed her eyes as he approached. Once he was about to collide, she was enveloped by a brihgt light, causing him to be repelled backwards towards the groan, slamming into the dirt with a ground.

Afisa ran next to her friend a moment later with Natasha close behind. Afisa was holding a dead fish that Natasha regarded hungrily.

"Ready, sis?" asked Afisa.

Amalija nodded, smiling. "Ready."

Amalija held up the dirt in one hand and Afisa held up the fish. With their wands they waved intricate symbols in the air before dropping their wands and making irate fingr movements. Amalija then slowly sprinkled the dirt over the dead fish, causing it to glow very faintly. Amalija clapped her hands before she turned to Afisa.

"Keep the hex on standby. He's regaining his bearings!" commanded Amalija as she ran forward. 

"Be careful!" commanded Afisa.

Amalija ran towards the PES who tossed her into the air.

Amalija held her wand in front of her as it began to glow. "Close your eyes, everyone! Light!" cried Amalija, causing the PES to shout, blinded. Amalija dropped to the ground and quickly stood up.

"Duck!" commanded Afisa.

Amalija did so, ducking under the spiked trail of magic that oozed from Afisa's wand. It connected and the PES lurched forward, eyes wide. He bent forward and vomitted an orange-ish yellow splatter on Amalija's head. "Ew!" she cried. "Afisa!" she cried.

"Why wouldn't you move!" asked an exasperated Afisa.

"How I was supposed to know he'd throw up!?"

"Let's just finish him off."

And so, blinded, inflicted with a horrible stomach bug, and suffering from an extremely painful headache, the PES literally did not know what hit him as he was blasted by a large blast of fire then flung in the air before he banged his head on a far-off building, knocking him out cold.

The two witches slowly and cautiously approached the psychic. Once they were close, Afisa nudged the PES over using her foot and the two witches gave a collective sigh of relief once they saw his unconcious face. Their muscles relaxed at the relization.

Amalija bent down and touched the psychic's hard chest, blushing. "He's alive." she revealed.

Afisa flicked her wand at him. "Yeah? Well, not for long."

Amalija's eyes widened. "Wait, what!?"

"I'm going to kill him, what do you mean "what"?"

"Have mercy on him."

"He's a PES, he doesn't deserve mercy! He's a monster!"

"Thou shall not kill." stated Amalija sternly.

Afisa threw up her hands. Great, annoying again. "If we keep him alive, he'll just come to hurt us again. If we kill him, the rest of the PES will know we mean business. There, now give me a good reason we shouldn't kill him now."

Amalija folded her arms and closed her eyes. "Sure, the PES can guess what we did if he doesn't return, or alternatively they could just think he abandoned him. Either way, they won't know what really happened. He won't return to tell them the utter pain, the fear he fellt while battling us. If he does return, his comerades will become wary of us."

Afisa folded her arms before sighing. "Fine, whatever. We'll keep him alive for now."

Amalija smiled. "Thank you."

"Just help me drag him out of here."

..

The two witches returned to the spot where they would plant the seed.

Afisa took out the seed and her wand. "Ready?"

"Wait."

Afisa sighed in annoyance as she put her wand back in manaspace and the seed back in her pocket. "What is it?"

"Um, before we create the Frost Forest. I'd like to lead a prayer, for your loved ones, um, if you don't mind."

Afisa blinked in shock. "Um, yeah, that'll be fine."

Amalija nodded and held her hands out. "Okay, take my hands." she said, prompting Afisa to do so as the two faced each other. "Close your eyes and bend your head down." They did so and Amalija cleared her throat. "Oh, Holy Father I call upon you today to lead a prayer for my sister;s loved ones. She knows firsthand of the marks of The Devil on this world yet she still stands strong. For that I look up to her and pray that you protect her and everyone she cares about. Here she is."

Afisa was moved by her sister's words but was quick in her prayer. "Um, hello God. I know I don't talk to you all that much but I guess you always make your prescence known, you know for creating everyhting, unlcuding Gaia. Anyway, I pray for you to make sure my grnadmother is all right and tell her that I meant no harm in abandoning her, I pray that my Mother is happy in heaven, I pray that soon, bigotry and hatred will no longer show its ugly head upon your world, that love and acceptance will bounce from every heart. As to my Father...well...I hope he's learned the grave error of his ways and...I pray you judge him justly."

Amalija nodded. "In your holy name we pray-" she began.

"Amen." they concluded in unison. They lingered the hand-holding for a bit before breaking the connection.

Amalija smiled. "Very nicely said."

Afisa smiled. "You really think so."

Amalija nodded. "Yes. I haven't prayed since joinining Gaia. It really felt nice to do something I love and am used to. It also helped that you were so good at it."

"Stop it, you're making me blush. Well, let's get this show on the road." Afisa stated before taking the seed and putting on the ground before gently pushing it into the dirt. She took Amalija's right hand took in her own right hand. The two witches closed their eyes as they felt the mana of the environment flow into their bodies. Since they wouldn't have to convert it into a foreign type of magic. Since she wasn;t adept in using ice magic, Amalija simply acted as a conductor to her more magically experienced sister. The two began to glow brilliantly with as much mana they were sotring.

"Blizzera!" cried Afisa, pointing her wand at the seed, sending a torrent of snow and ice at the seed. After about a aminute of the non-stop blizzard, Afisa ended her spell. The two stepped away from the glowing seed. Suddenty, a bright blue tendril of energy broke out of the seed, before several more tendrils shot out. It soon began to snow intensely and snow-covered trees without lees sprouted, created a forest before the witches very eyes as they looked around in wonder. Polar bears, penguins and other animals ran into the thick forest. The lake froze over into thick ice that was covered in ice and large ice shards sprouted, destroying the man-made buildings and freezing the inhabitants, encasing them in ice, their screams of agony frozen in time. As the transformation, the two gazed around at their beuatiful new domain: The Frost Forest.

...

The dusk sky was absolutely stunning, especially from Juan Carlos' magnificent soaring castle. Above the clouds, the romantic purple-pink sky was unmarked. Kola always loved sunsets, she had ever since she was a little girl. Then she liked them simply due to how pretty they were, she mainly liked them now because they were a prelude to night: her prime time to espionage operations. However, she knew she wouldn't be assigned a mission that night, allowing her to marvel at the sunset's beauty in a way she hadn't in a long time. She supposed it was its alieness that she thought beautiful, she always loved extradinary things.

Kola and her father were sitting in adjacent red and black fold-up camp chairs. They were both drinking pink lemonade out of martini glasses. They were both observing the scene below them, in the most massive courtyard in Juan's castle. There were two goals on the opposite sides of the courtyard and the boys were frantically running two and fro, kicking a ball with black hexagons toward the goals. They were playing football.

Juan regarded the scene with smug fascination. All members of the PES were in play except for two: Luuk and Sebastion. He took note of Akmal, who was a natural, weaving beween his fellow psychics with an amount of grace he had not thought possible in the boy. The opposing team's hearts seemed to sink into the pits of the stomachs once Akmal gained control of the ball. It was fortunate then, that said team happened to have Zack in order to even out the playing field. Although he wasn't nearly as skilled as Akmal in the realm of sports, his speed more than made up for it, stealing the ball before the cocky psychic knew what had hit him. Zack's kicks were nothing to fool around with either. Akmal grinned as Zack took the ball from him before giving chase.

Kola took a sip of her drink before turning to her father. "Father, why are you allowing them to have leisure time when Luuk failed his mission?" she asked, raising her eyebrows before taking another sip.

Juan chuckled, the wrinkles in his face shifting as he smiled. "A reasonable concern my daughter. Fear not, I will chatize them tomorrow about the failure and train them accordingly." he thrust out his old hand at the psychic's below. "This excercise however is important too. It is important for the boys to experience downtime for if I rob them of that they may become unruly and disobedient. Aditionally, it's important for soldiers to form bonds in times of war for it gives them more to fight for, more to protect. Finally, this is a good training excerise."

Kola nodded, satisfied with her father's answer. "I see. Thank you for enlightening me."

"Anything for my darling daughter." replied Juan.

This was not simply a normal game of football. To spice things up, Akmal had allowed everyone to use their psychic powers. This made for impressive steals from the general players and awesome saves from the goalies. To make things somewhat fair and in-line with the game, to use psychokinesis, no one was allowed to use hand-movements, making things somewhat challenging for Afwerki and Joshua, among a few others. The ball was slightly charred on one side, courtesy of Carmelo and Eziz, yet it was still usable.

The goalie for Akmal's team, Gojo, caught the speeding ball that was psycokinatically enchanced to move faster effortlessly with his hand.

"Y'all bitches be cray if you think you gettin' this ball through!" he spat before throwing the ball right at Zack's head, causing him to crumble to the ground.

Afwerki ran to Zack, eyes wide. "Brother Zack! Foul! Foul! F-!"

Zack chuckled, dazed. "Don't sweat it Afwerki. Just keep playin'. I'll be good in a jiff..."

Afwerki bit his lip nervously.

Kola leaned forward slightly in her chair, looking at Joshua who was running with light steps, his sleepy-gray eyes seeming to twinkle. His curly, ashy-blond hair bounced as he moved like the wind. His pale skin was glistening with sweat...

"Kola." said Juan in a way that made Kola believe he had called her name multiple times.

Kola jerked to attention, startled. "Huh, yes?"

Juan smiled as he stroked his goatee. "What do you think of Luuk?"

Kola closed her eyes and folded her names. "I like him. His personal religious beliefs makes him one-hundred-percent willing to kill the witches, unlike Afwerki. Due to his total devotion to our cause, he's an unbelievably great asset. As we speak, he is meditating, training due to his failure so that his God will grant him the power he so craves in order to exterminate the witch scum."

Juan chuckled. "Is that so? Then why do you like Joshua so?"

Kola blushed and blinked before folding her arms. "I do not like Joshua." she said tersely.

Juan laughed thunderously as she rose. "You don't need to hide your feeling from me, Kola! Im going to head to my chambers, do you care to join?"

Kola stared at the players before shaking her head. "I think...I think I'll observe for a bit longer. I'll catch up with you soon father."

Juan smirked before leaving.

So, with her lemonade in hand Kola continued to spectate the grand football game. She attentively watched every move of Joshua. Although he wasn't as experienced in sports as Akmal or Zack, she thought Joshua was the best player. Deftly stealing the soccer ball and using clever feints to keep his opponents at bay. He moved like the leaf in the autumn air, seemingly powerless yet so experienced and beautiful. She thought of Joshua like a graceful, psychic swan.

As Kola watched Joshua, she pondered at her father's question which she initially shied away from. Why did she care for Joshua so? What was the feeling in her chest? Why did he make her feel so different than anyone she ever met before. She felt so vulnerable yet so...safe. Is this...this feeling...is it-?

Kola sat in her chair, her heart pounding so heavily that she felt it in her mouth. Kola stayed until sun down, when the game had ended about an hour later.

...

Lillian stood outside the treehouse at night, arm resting on the wooden railing. She looked up wistfully, blowing a breath. The she looked up at the twinkling stars and smiled despite herself. She needed to find some joy somehow and since her best friend was asleep, she looked at the stars for help.

"Lillian?" said a voice from behind.

Lillian shrieked and leapt up before turning around, eyes wide with fear as she held her hands in front of her. She blew a breath, tension releasing from her body once she saw who it was: Amalija without her glasses and thus squinting so tightly she thought her eyes were closed.

"I'm sorry, I'll just head back to bed." Amalija apologized.

Lillian shook her head and waved her hands. "Wait, wait! No, I'm sorry. You just scared me." she hit her head with her fist mockingly. "I'm just a scatter-brain. So what's up?" she asked. Even though she believed Amalija had turned to "Gaia's" side, she was glad that Amalija seemed happier with herself.

"Um, so I overheard you talking with Zoe, forgive me." Amalija bowed.

"Oh, don't sweat it. What did you hear?" she asked.

"Um, I heard you were really good at writing songs and I was wondering if you could write me a poem. I stay up for a long time and I want something to read."

"Heh, I'm honestly not that good." blushed Lillian.

Amalija gave a small smile. "Please?"

Lillian sighed "Fine. What do you want a poem about?"

"Me."

"Okay, tell me a few things. Follow me, I'm going to get my suitcase to get some pen and paper."

Amalija did so, telling Lillian of all the feelings she had experienced in her life, especially the fear and insecrutiy she felt when she joined Gaia and learned of her being a witch. She also told her of the acceptance and love she felt with herself now and her connection to God. Amalija then went to the railing, waiting for Lillian to finish writing the poem.

About thirty minutes later Lillian approached Amalija, yawning and handing her a paper.

"It's not much but it's the best I can do, I'm going to head to bed." Lillian announced. "G'night."

"Goodnight and thank you." said Amalija with a smile.

Lillian waved a hand as she head back to bed. "You're welcome."

Amalija read the poem. Although it had a lot of lines crossed off and messily scribbled over, it was nothing but beautiful. Amalija read the poem with gasps and wide eyes. It got her. In a brief synapsis, Lillian had intricately and poetically captured her hopes, her fears and her anxieties with only a brief synopsis. It was the best thing reflective of herself that she had ever witnessed. She felt her own reflection could not compare and thus reading the poem, she shed a tear of joy.

Chapter Twenty: Thawing HeartsEdit

Joshua knocked on the red door to Kola's room as he stood in the dark hall of Juan's castle. Unlike the rest of the castle, the wings where Juan and Kola resided were not brightly lit. Joshua shifted his weight to his left foot and he put a hand on his hips with a smirk. He heard quick movement as well as Kola swearing under her breath behind the door. Joshua couldn't help but be surprised at the sound of Kola's heavy footsteps. She usually moved with such silent, deadly grace and now her movements sounded akin to an angry hippopotamus.

Joshua's hair moved with a gust of wind as Kola opened the door,  her eyes widened slightly.

Joshua chuckled, brushing his hair back with his hand. "Is something the matter, angel?" he teased.

Kola's leg tingled, threatening to shake incriminatingly. Due to her years of training however, the only indication on her face that something was possibly wrong was a brief twitch of the side of her mouth.

"No." she said flatly before stepping to the side of the door, revealing to Joshua her lush room. "After you."

Joshua smiled as he walked through the threshold, impressed with Kola's chambers. He looked around, admiring her dark red carpet and dark stone walls. His ears were treated to the sound of crackling fire in the fireplace. In the presence of a lovely woman in a lavish room wasn't the worst place for a psychic to relax.

"Thank you for coming."

Joshua smirked. He knew how hard it was for Kola to thank anyone. "Thank you for having me." He then chuckled. "But it's inevitable that you'd invite me for you can only mask your love and lust towards me for so long." 

Kola swallowed as she grew hot. She hated how close he was to the truth. Did he know? It was possible, he could read minds after all. "Look, do you want to leave?" she asked flatly.

"Lighten up a bit Kola. Being so touchy makes you seem suspicious." Joshua chuckled.

Shoot, he's right! "I just invited you because I was bored." Kola calmly explained.

Joshua grinned deviously. "And you needed a little boy toy to keep you entertained?"

Kola was silent as she swallowed and her face began to heat unbearably. Say something! If he hasn't caught on then he'll certainly catch on if you stay silent.

"Fine, I'll stop." sighed Joshua as he plopped down on the edge of her bed. Kola sighed, masking her relief with annoyance as she turned around, away from Joshua. She walked to her large walk-in closet. After she swiftly opened the door and stepped inside, the closet's warm white lights automatically flickered to life. Joshua craned his neck, sitting on the edge of the bed in order to secure a better view of the closet. Having only witnessed Kola wearing her black bodysuit prior to that day, Joshua was shocked at the amount of clothes in the closet. True, the ammount of clothes was still a bit sparse for a closet of that size but it was still phenemonal since it was the closet of a person whose clothing pattern seemed to rival a cartoon character's in its uniformity.In Kola's closet was a slew of pressed dresses of various colors and styles. One dress that stood alone was particularly long. It was a pale yellow-green with puffy brown sleeve and frills.

Kola retrieved the box from a high shelf and placed it protectively under her arm as she exited the closet. As she approached, Joshua slid from the bed onto the floor with a smile.

Joshua took note of Kola's attire which consisted of gray fleece pajama pants and a short-sleeved hot pink pajama shirt. She was barefoot, revealing her medium-sized brown feet.

Joshua smirked. "Say, Kola? If I may, could I ask you a question."

Kola stopped walking and used her free arm to put her right hand on her hip. "You may." she allowed tentatively.

"Do you always sleep in those pajamas?" asked Joshua.

Odd question, yet ultimately harmless. I don't see any detriment in revealing my typical sleepwear, within reason. "No, sometimes I sleep in a nightgown."

"Are there times when you sleep nude?" chuckled Joshua.

Kola swallowed, her cheeks glowing and burning.

Joshua grinned. "I'll take that as a yes."

"Why do you want to know?" she asked.

Joshua shrugged and threw up his hands innocently. "I was simply curious." Joshua smiled.

Kola lowered her eyelids. "You know what they say about the cat."

Joshua chuckled.. "You know, I'm smarter than the average cat, angel." Joshua defended.

Kola sceptically raised her eyebrows. "Is that so? We'll see about that." Kola stepped forward and dropped the box of Super Scrabble to the ground, between her and Joshua.

"I'm hoping you can prove a worthy first opponent." Kola told.

"So you know how to play already?" asked Joshua.

"Why do you think the box is already open? I've been studying the manual for the past few days."

Joshua smiled. "Then we can jump straight into the fun."

..

Joshua smirked smugly as he placed the final letter of his high-scoring word on the board. Kola's arms were folded as she stared blankly at the Scrabble board. 

Joshua looked up at his opponent. She tried to keep her heart solid while those cool gray eyes looked into her cold brown ones. "Ready to admit defeat?" he asked with a slight smile.

"Never." she responded, flashing a smile of her own.

The two were neck-in-neck.Almost each play, one of them were sure that the other wouldn't be able to catch only for them to be proven wrong again and again. While the game began as tense, the aura had began to become increasingly lighthearted.</span> Joshua was pleasantly surprised that someone was able to match his vast knowledge of the English language. He was even more impressed that it was someone whose first language wasn't English. 

Joshua began stroking his chin as he looked at the board, waiting for Kola to make her play.

Kola began to rapidly put her letters in place and Joshua blinked, awed.

"Your move." Kola announced, smugly.

Joshua whistled. "Wow. English isn't your first language, correct? In that case, how did you become so fluent in it? What age did you begin to learn it? Who taught you?"

"You sure like to ask questions don't you?" Kola sighed. "You are correct, English is not my first language. I'm glad I learned it however, it sees use worldwide and as a result, it helps me greatly.I began learning English when I was seven. My father was the one who taught me English. All the important things in life I've learned from my father. He is the shining beacon in my life. Without him, I'd have nothing, be nothing."

"You sure love you father." Joshua smiled softly. "A lot of people can only dream of having a bond like you have with your father." Joshua then swallowed, steeling himself for his next topic. "But I'm curious, what happened to your mother. I mean is she still around or is she-"

Kola blew a breath through her nose and shook her head. "No, she's no longer with us. She died while giving birth to me, eighteen years ago. My father says I was smiling and laughing until my dear mother drew her last breath, wherein I immediately began bawling. As you can imagine, my father was devastated but he decided to go on because he knew that he'd need to be twice the parent to make up for my lost one. That's why I love my father so much, he's always been there for me, and he always has placed me number one even amidst chaos."

Joshua nodded with a smile. "That's certainly true. Even though we had the witches to deal with, he was utterly devastated when you were missing in action." Kola blushed with a small smile. Joshua smiled as well. "Do you know anything about your mom?"

"Only what my father and uncle have told me. Her name was Corazón. She was about twenty-two when she had me, was a Native-Mexican, had a terrific sense of humor, was kind to everyone, was strong-willed, and loved to sing. Father says she spent many nights knitting and sowing my baby clothes while singing to me while I was in her womb."

Joshua smiled. "She sounds lovely."

Kola nodded with a genuine smile. "She was." Kola closed her eyes. "I'm grateful that Father has raised me and I've never met my mother...but I often fantasize about her life and wonder about how things would be different if she survived and the three of us lived as a family. I think about her very often even though I have a parent who isn't dead. Is that..is that bad Joshua?"

"Not at all. It's perfectly normal to think about the ones we've lost. There's nothing bad about thinking of your mother. I know you love your father but you love your mother as well and since you don't see her, it's okay to often think about her. I'm sure your mother appreciates being thought about." Joshua reassured. I have to say, I don't think I imagined such a tender side to Kola.

Kola smiled, took a deep breath, and gripped her thigh. "I love my mother and I love the bond between daughter and mother that can transcend death. Because of this, I hate it when Gaia forges a mock parental bond as a form of propaganda  in order to use them as sacrifices for her twisted plot." she said, beginning to say the words through angry, gritted teeth.

Joshua blinked, surprised by the reaction. "Well, I'm certain she is their mother."

"Well, I bet they had people they knew as parents before her and she severed those ties. She forms a parental bond so they'll obey her every command. They're not her daughters, they're her slaves! Shes' using them!" Kola spat. "It makes me sick!"

Joshua chuckled nervously "Let's get back to more fun things, hmmm?" he suggested, playing his word.

Kola blew hot breath from her nose.

..

The air of tension had completely evaporated, and now the two were jubilant as they played. Their minds were ever sharp as they filled the air with chuckles and snorts. Kola's nervousness around Joshua had subsided for the night, allowing her to be more daring. Kola had scooted next to Joshua, causing her to be filled with shivering delight as their bodies touched (through clothes, but touching nonetheless). Kola was floored by this completely alien feeling. She was so attracted to this younger boy and she wanted to be with him at all times. She wanted to learn so much more about him (including what he looked like under his clothes) and in turn she wanted to reveal all about herself. With Joshua, she felt all the admiration she felt for her father plus a feeling that was more fluttery and a feeling that was more base. Unfortunately, Kola still didn't know how to properly deal with this feeling. Ignoring this feeling, Kola was granted something she had seldom experienced in her eighteen years of living: a friend. The man she was closest to was her father and she felt uncomfortable calling him her friend for she felt it was elevating her to his level, which she thought was utterly blasphemous. She was close to her Crazy Uncle Halcón but he died when she was fourteen when he tap danced on the train tracks of an incoming train. Kola would rather swim in acid than call Fernanda her friend. With Joshua, she felt appreciated, she felt comfortable, she felt safe.

Kola looked at Joshua's chest, revealed due to his habit of u\having at least two buttons unbuttoned. "Are you not hot Joshua?" she asked. She was considering unbuttoning another button, making the total number of unbuttoned buttons four. She was weighing the pros and cons.

"I'm fine Kola, thanks. Stop stalling, your end is near."

"You're in denial if you honestly think you're going to win." said Kola

"Another question, why do you have so many clothes if you wear your bodysuit everyday?"

"They're for assignments," Kola answered, matter-of-factly. "I'm an assassin and each job is different. I need to blend into my environment and become the given role of the mission." 

"Hm interesting." Joshua said, scratching his chin. "Is your profession as an assassin why you act so stoic?" he inquired.

"During impersonations, and espionage missions, I can change my personality at will in order to cater to a target's specifications. I can be a flirtatious perspective lover, I can be a successful, stern CEO, I can be a distraught widower, the list goes on and on. For killing however, yes, my "default" personality you can say is one of detachedness because it fosters control. It gives me the clear-head I need to successfully carry out a kill." she explained.

"Being so unemotional doesn't get boring?"

"It gets the job done. I see no need in changing how I act. I am happy when my father is happy."

"Do you ever feel guilty about killing?" 

Kola lowered her eyelids. "You'd make a great detective. No, I do not. If my father says kill, I shall kill. My father is a just man. I know if he wants someone dead, they deserve to die and for a good reason."

Joshua nodded.

Their game went on, Joshua mostly oblivious to Kola's inner turmoil over him due to her being able to mask it well as the night dragged on. Their game ended as a tie.

...

Lillian swished the cold, fresh water in her mouth, freeing her white-ish teeth from its paste coating. She then forcefully spitting the water/paste mixture into one of the green marble sinks of the bathhouse that was next to the hot springs in Gaia's forest. The lavatory area was dim, with enough mid-morning light streaming in the large, open exit to illuminate the front of the area, where the sinks and mirrors where but not enough to fully illuminate the toilets in the back, leaving them in eerie darkness.

Like any other day with the witches, Lillian had eaten a large in fulfilling meal, her appetite rivaling Xaviera, who ate with such ferocity that her fellow witches could not help but stare. After breakfast was teeth brushing then after that was some much abhorred quality time with Lillian's dear mother, The Earth herself. Lillian shamefully admitted that due to being around Gaia for a bit now, she'd developed some familiarity around her though the teenage girl swore that her hatred for her abductor burned ever brightly. Lillian's worst fear was that she'd develop Stockholm Syndrome towards Gaia.

The teenage witch looked up at the pristine mirror, her chocolate eyes gazing into those of her reflections. She touched her lightly freckled cheek with her slightly stout hand. Her gaze crept upwards to her frizzy, curly red brown mane She blew a breath before giving a half smile. "Looking as plain as ever. Not that I mind though, that's just the way it is, I'm perfectly happy the way I look." Lillian chuckled as she patted her hair as a feeble attempt at fixing it. From the corner of her eye, she could see Zoe walking towards the exit and couldn't help but watch her. She looked at the backside of her friend as Zoe's golden-yellow hair that reached to her back gently swished back and forth to the rhythm of her beautiful, almost artful walk. As Zoe walked, Lillian seemed to be almost hypnotized. What swagger Zoe commanded and for no reason at all. Lillian thought of how lucky her boyfriend must be.

Lillian turned once more at her reflection and winced at what she saw. For a moment, only a flash, her plainness looked absolutely atrocious; her hair was a disgusting mess, her freckles littered her face like a disease, her eyes were as big as a doe prior to collision with a car. Despite this, a moment later, she felt no resentment. Lillian smiled feebly. "Well, that was weird. Wonder what that was about." She chuckled nervously. What am I getting worked up about? At least I don't look as bad as I write!

Despite the British witch's attempt at being jovial, she quickly turned away from the mirror, having had enough of her reflection. She glumly frowned as she regarded Felicia, delicately brushing her teeth with her back towards the mirror. Kajsa was at her feet, meowing morosely at his companion.

Geez, and here I am thinking I have self-image issues. Poor Felicia here refuses to even glance at her reflection when she's hands down the loveliest person here. Lillian sighed. It just really bums me out. Felicia then turned around and spat in the sink, taking extra caution to ensure that she wouldn't have to see her reflection.

Lillian jumped at a sudden, shrill, alien sound. She groaned once she turned and saw its origin: Hélène once again marveling at her "fabulous" reflection. Even though she had been with Hélène for over two weeks now, Lillian still was not used to her laughter. Thankful that she had managed to avoid a heart attack and possessing the intense desire to get away from the conceited witch, Lillian quickly scuttled towards the exit of the bathhouse.

Lillian nearly fell backwards once she bumped into a somewhat large object, causing something to hit the floor. Lillian gritted her teeth, cursing herself for her clumsiness. As she saw the object slowly reach down and place thick glasses on its face, Lillian realized the object she bumped into was in fact Amalija, causing her to grow even more flustered.

Lillian rapidly waved her hands in apology as she grew red. "Sorry, sorry! I should have watched where I was going!"

"It's quite alright. The fault is on me." Amalija smiled before moving away.

Lillian jumped once she heard Gaia say. "Ready for more training?" from behind. Lillian turned around and saw Gaia was holding out Lillian's starter broom in her left hand. "My apologies, but I just wanted to continue our session as soon as possible! I don't want you to feel left behind or inferior to your sisters!" Gaia bent her knees to be closer to Lillian. "Shall we begin?" she smiled.

Lillian blinked in shock with a nod. "Sure."

...

The ten psychics slowly trickled into the grand library, their footsteps muffled by the large room's red and gold carpeted floor.The library was illuminated by several brown, multi-layered chandeliers. In the center of the massive library were two staircases that were faced at a diagonal. At their top was another, suspended portion of the library. The center of the top floor sported an old-fashioned, large globe on a wooden stand. Dotted around the library were brown couches and love seats. The first floor contained two wooden tables with four chairs around each, the top floor had one such table.

There were rows upon rows of books resting in hand-crafted wooden shelves. The books were divided by genre and further divided alphabetically by the author's surname. Juan Carlos' tastes were varied for his library seemed to contain every genre under the sun from historical non-fiction to philosophy to comedy to romance to mystery to cookbooks to anthropology to tragedy. 

Gojo sneered at the dizzying amount of books. He never cared for reading: not road signs, not books. To him, the room smelled musty and made his nose flare up in irritation.

Joshua smiled as he entered the library. He always felt at home at libraries and he was already fantasizing about curling up on one of the couches, mesmerized by the words of a great book. His nose was lulled by the smell of vanilla and almond.

Juan Carlos appeared visibly pleased while in the library. Few of the PES would dispute his aptitude in leading them, yet they couldn't deny that on the library, he appeared highly scholarly.

As Juan turned to face his pupils and his daughter, he put his hands behind his back. "Welcome to my humble lectio cubiculum, which is Latin for reading chamber. I learned Latin in addition to many other languages by reading, and you, my students, can learn many concepts by reading as well. You can learn about concepts you were never exposed to, you can master concepts you believe you are good at, and most importantly, you can learn about concepts from a different angle, a different perspective than you would have otherwise. This new view can give more importance to things you might have otherwise brushed aside as meaningless."

Carmelo folded his arms and closed this eyes. There's gotta' be a point to what he just said.

"While being strong enough to take on The Witches is important, learning is also important. Intellectual growth will no doubt increase your chances of survival; critical thinking combined with instinct are your best friends on the battle field." Juan took a moment for his words to sink in as he observed the faces of the PES: mostly attentive. The elderly psychic continued. "You are free to borrow my books but if you damage them in any way, I will break you. I will return in forty minutes." Juan began to head towards the exit.

Gojo growled in irritation. "You must be smokin' if you think I'm gonna' waste forty minutes in a goddamn library old man."

Juan held out his hands towards the door, eyebrows slightly raised as he closed his eyelids halfway. "If you won't make use of this facility, then by all means leave. No one is stopping you. Forced reading is always such a hassle."

Gojo sneered as he raised his chin up, looking at his comrades. "Got me there old man. Readin's whack as shit anyway."

To calm himself, Andy closed his eyes. To him, one of the only great things about humanity was the gift of books. Without his animal and geography encyclopediae he'd be much more ignorant of the natural world. Andy's hand curled into a fist and Manic, who was perched on his shoulder grunted irritably. One of the only things homo sapiens are good for and this bloke hates it. He embodies loves everything wrong with this blasted species: bullying, greed, over indulging, loud, pollutant motor vehicles, and guns. Why is he even here anyway? He's disobedient and idiotic. Him and Sebastion get to do whatever they so please because they're stronger than the rest of us. Andy took a deep breath. I shouldn't use self-control, I should just go all out like nature intended me too, give him a good punch in his eye for being a moron. He took a deep sigh. But I'd probably be punished for it so I'll just hold back for now.

Juan gave a pitying smirk. "Just don't cause a ruckus."

Gojo waved a hand as he exited. "Can't make any promises."

Sebastion frowned as he watched Gojo exit the library. "Imbecile." he said, annoyed. "Shirking the gift of literature in order to pursue an undoubtedly pointless and asinine endeavor. This is a prime example of my superiority to fools like him. My mind is leagues greater than his and thus..." Sebastion held out a clawed palm, green, shining energy forming a sphere around his hand. The young psychic smirked as the energy formed. "...my powers are greater." Sebastion's smirk widened. "Though, now that I think of it, that idiot Gojo's foolishness is quite amusing." Sebastion started to walk towards a section of books, his back turned towards his fellow psychics. "The fact that you're all staying to read at least shows that you're all not total imbeciles." Sebastion began to laugh. "But your minds all still akin to turkeys compared to mine!"

Afwerki disapprovingly shook his head as he put his fists on his hips and sighed. He departed from the group in search for the politics section. 

Eziz and Akmal were walking a bit behind Sebastion. Eziz scanned the sections, trying to find one that piqued his interests. Eziz seldom enjoyed the opportunity to read in his life, the most prominent barrier being that that he spent several years inside a fiery crater. As always, Eziz was lulled by Juan's words, feeling that each speech he made was of the utmost importance. As such, the teenager felt an urgent desire to track down a book and commence reading as soon as possible in order to make up for lost time, lost knowledge. He wished to read something he believed his father would read to him; he wished to read a folktale.

Akmal frowned as he stared at the back of Sebastion's neatly combed black hair and his unwrinkled black vest and dress pants. Akmal turned to Eziz, keeping his voice low. "You know, that kid's really starting to get on my nerves. He's always acting so high-and-mighty, he thinks he's so perfect." he began to quietly rant.

Despite Eziz thinking deeply reading, he was also attentive towards his friend. "Yes, I must agree that Sebastion's personality is quite vexing." he admitted before exasperatingly shaking his head. "Like when I grew accustomed to the red haze in my prison, The Door to Hell, I'm certain living with Sebastion will allow us to grow accustomed to Sebastion's less savory qualities." he calmly rationalized.

Akmal sighed as he rolled his eyes. You mean every quality that Sebastion has? Akmal smiled smugly. "So I had an idea. Since he's always acting like he's untouchable, how about we knock the squirt down a peg?" he offered, his voice a bit louder. Sebastion's ears began to perk as a result. "We could challenge the pipsqueak to something we know he couldn't beat us in like basketball, soccer or some other game. Heck, if we all teamed up, we could probably take him in a fight!" he explained, growing more and more excited.

Eziz shook his head sternly. "First of all, attempting to challenge Sebastion in a game with the odds stacked against him is not very noble, Akmal. Second of all, Sebastion is extremely strong, it may very well be that we simply cannot "knock him down a peg" no matter the challenge. There's also the problem with his personality. If Sebastion seriously doubts his ability to succeed, I'm uncertain he'd meet the challenge at all. Furthermore, "knocking him down a peg" probably will not cause Sebastion to grow somber and respectful, rather it will cause him to grow manic and angry, putting all our lives at risk as he has a deadly outburst. If you want his personality to actively change instead of you just learning to ignore it, you'll have to wait for him to mature."

Akmal became bitterly silent, his hand curled into a loose fist as he looked away from both Sebastion and Eziz. Of course he gets to whatever the heck he wants. Of course he can mock whoever he wants, and except him and Juan, that's everyone in this castle. No one can stop him since he's the strongest and that's  embarrassing because he's the strongest. I just want to shut him up so he can stop being a jerk to everyone. We all need to stick together and become friends to survive but he just makes it harder for everyone to be comfortable with one another. Akmal smirked, looking at Sebastion. Maybe I can be the one that teaches him some manners. I could probably get him while his back is turned. No, that's cowardly. I could take some kid head-on! 

Feeling better, Akmal turned to talk to Eziz again. Akmal was back to his smirking, old self.  "I wonder though, what's the point of Sebastion trying to rub in our faces the fact that he's smarter than us? We already know how he feels about the rest of us. It's almost as if he's telling himself that he's oh-so-smart. Like he doesn't actually-"

Akmal let out a small gasp and stopped dead in his tracks as Sebastion turned around, frowning. He swallowed as he briefly saw the young psychic's eyes. They were cold and they almost made Sebastion appear as if he was bored yet Akmal was well aware of the fury behind them.

Sebastion's voice was low and monotonous, giving it a chilling quality. Akmal faintly wished Sebastion would just blow up and scream at him. "Were you insinuating that I may not believe in my power?"

"N-no! I would never-!" Akmal lied, frantically.

Sebastion's eyes darkened. "Which in turn implies that my personality may just be a ruse, therefore hinting that I am not powerful. If you were insinuating that then your life is most certainly forfeit."

Once Sebastion said "forfeit", Akmal's heart sank into the pit of his stomach. He licked his lips as he began to sweat profusely. He'd need to appease Sebastion and soon if he wanted to live. He quickly shook his head, knees weak. "No, you don't under-" Akmal's eyes widened. Saying he doesn't understand something: bad idea! "I wasn't implying that at all."

Sebastion raised an annoyed eyebrow. "Oh, then what was the point of your inane rambling?"

Akmal chuckled nervously, rubbing his hands together. C'mon! Think, Akmal, think! "Well, I-I w-w-was just w-wondering w-why you kept advertising your..uh, obvious superiority compared to the rest of u-us idiots." he shakily began. Shit, c'mon, lie Akmal, lie! "Uh, I just thought you were doing it to remind u-us who's b-boss so w-we w-wouldn't get out of line."

"Liar!" growled Sebastion, causing  Akmal to emit a quiet, fearful, high-pitched "eep". Sebastion's face had gradually transformed into an ugly scowl. His fists faintly shook and his eyes burned with the intensity of the sun's core. Akmal had never seen such an expression from Sebastion, and quite frankly, he hoped to never see it again. "Now shut up." Sebastion said quietly, darkly.

Akmal gave a nod. "Yes sir, yep, I'll shut up, zip, not another word, not another peep from me, haha!" he said frantically. Eziz sighed and shook his head pityingly.

"Silence!" Sebastion, barked his eyes manic. "Another word and I'll kill you where you stand! You will not talk until I grant you permission to do so." Sebastion closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Once he exhaled and opened his eyes, he was much calmer, yet still faintly quivering with rage. His voice was eerily quiet, to the point that Akmal had to learn forward slightly to hear him perfectly. "You are lying. You were implying that I did not believe in my power. Listen very closely, worm: my belief in my strength shall never waver and there is no reason why it would. My power is very real and I have never had to convince myself of its potency. There is nothing I must compensate for and I am perfectly happy with the way I am. My confidence is not a cover up for some insecurity. This is the real, unadulterated me." Sebastion explained before turning around.

Akmal gritted his teeth in anger. What the heck was that about? Why'd he get all defensive? Akmal shook his head. It doesn't matter, all that matters is how much of a loser I am. I talk big, talk about taking him down a peg but at the end of they day, the truth is that I'm afraid of some little kid. I'd do anything he asked me to. He sighed dismally. I'd probably lick the little twerp's feet if he asked me to...

Akmal became stiff as a stone once Sebastion turned around again. What could he possibly want now?

"I don't like you behind me." Sebastion said blankly. Akmal wasn't sure if he was more relieved or terrified once Sebastion's familiar smirk appeared on his face, his small, pink lips spreading wide. "I'll pick a book for you. To master our abilities, we must have a tight grasp on their mechanics. Therefore, I want you to read a book about Quantum Physics. Consider it me being generous. I'll be amused knowing you're somewhere racking your puny brain in an attempt to understand concepts greater than you. Now, out of my sight."

Akmal nodded and scurried off in search of the physics section, causing Sebastion to laugh. The boy's laughter died once he caught Eziz's disapproving frown. "Who do you think you're looking at?" frowned Sebastion.

"With the departure of Akmal, you're the only one in the immediate area. It should be obvious who I'm looking at. Surely your superior intellect can deduce that much." Before Sebastion could give a vexed reply, Eziz continued speaking. "You know, despite how much you abhor him, you and Gojo are quite alike." The Turkmen psychic folded his arms. "Perhaps that is the reason you dislike him so."

"I am nothing like that moron. He is an uncouth pig while I am an immaculate dove." 

"True, you two may not have the exact same traits but you sure do carry yourselves in the same manner. Both of you look down on the rest of the group, feeling that you are better than the rest of us, hating nearly everyone. Due to your egos, you both are reclusive. You two use your powers to harass others, believing doing so will earn you respect when in reality, it strips you of it. He says "loser" or "bitch" while you say "idiot" or "fool", when uttered by you and Gojo, they carry the same meaning." 

"Stop comparing me to him..." Sebastion commanded sternly.

"You both think of yourselves as gods when in reality, you're more akin to rabid dogs." Eziz wasn't surprised when he found himself hurdling through the air before he was slammed into a bookshelf, sending a rainbow of books fluttering to the ground. If the shelf was not bolted to the floor, it surely would have toppled. He looked at the far-off Sebastion who was growling lowly, hatred in his eyes. Eziz was not fazed, he simply gave the boy a defiant stare.

Carmelo walked through the library, alone. He walked between two tall bookshelves. He too felt strongly about the smell of old books. The smell filled him with wonder and excitement, though also anxiousness. He felt like an ant in a city of giants: giants that were bound by thick spines and wooden shelves. He felt compelled to open a book and lose himself in the sea of words, leaving the witches and PES behind. He was going to examine the books on the shelves that he was sandwiched between before he decided against it.

Forget it Carmelo, you don't do that anymore. Everyone would think you were a lame bitch if you did... Carmelo sighed. Even though he knew otherwise, he couldn't help but think that Juan Carlos had summoned him to the library just to taunt him. He was surrounded by books and he couldn't so much as read a blurb.

Refusing to read also begged the question of what he'd do for the next thirty-three minutes. Smoke, he concluded.

Carmelo walked up the stairs. He looked down below and raised his eyebrows. Eziz was picking up a pile of books that fell on the floor, Akmal was scrambling in the physics section, Zack was wandering around the library, appearing distraught, and Kola had surveyed the area before quickly sneaking into the instructional/reference section. Carmelo simply shrugged. I wonder how weird the witches are when they're not trying to kill us.

Carmelo sat down on a cushioned chair. He took out a cigarette from his pack of Camels and placed it between his lips. A few smokes and he'd be set for the remainder of the library trip. He took out his lighter and flicked the small, dancing flame to life. He was about to ignite the end of his cigarette. Carmelo closed his eyes.

"Would you mind killing the witches, and not your allies, hmmmmm?" asked a voice. "We're in an enclosed area, you know."

Carmelo sighed as he killed the flame. Joshua..

Carmelo opened his eyes and shot his roommate an annoyed glare. "That depends if you let me get a minute of peace and quiet." he said, cigarette still in his mouth.

Joshua countered Carmelo's look by shooting him an annoyed smirk. "And allow you to potentially kill The PES with carbon monoxide? I'm afraid not. Second-hand smoke kills, and quite unfairly at that."

Carmelo blew a breath as he removed his cigarette from his mouth and shoved it into his jacket pocket with the rest of the pack. "Aye-aye, momma." he sneered. Geez, I'm sorry okay? I wasn't thinking.  I don't want to hurt all you guys. 'I'm such a fucking idiot.

Joshua smiled. "Hey, hey, it's alright. We all slip up sometimes. The important thing is you realized how harmful it is to others and decided not to smoke inside. That's pretty smart in my book."

Carmelo blinked and looked up at him, beginning to sweat nervously. "Wait, wha-..? A-are you-?" he began. 

"But let's forget about that, Carmelo." said Joshua, quickly changing the subject. "Why aren't you reading?" Joshua leaned over the railing with a book trains and a book about philosophy under one arm. "You can't blame a lack of options."

Carmelo closed his eyes and leaned back on his chair while putting his hands behind his head. "I don't read. Only whack losers read." Yeah, that sounds about right. Sounds a bit too much like that asshat Gojo for my liking but I guess this personality and his match up pretty well. I wish I could actually read a book. I don't actually hate reading but I'm sure they'd think I'm a loser if they saw me readin'. They'd think I'm a nerd, a dweeb. I have to keep up this little disguise. There's no way in hell that I'm bein' at the bottom of the food chain here. I ain't never gonna' be at the bottom of the food chain again. Carmelo's thoughts became more and more quieter, receding to the back of his brain. These thoughts were the ones that played constantly, the thoughts that drove him.

Joshua was utterly baffled. "Carmelo, you don't have to lie. Whoever told you that reading makes you a loser is gravely misinformed. As Master Juan stated, reading helps you grow smarter. That's not even the important part though. The important part is that I sense that you like to read. If you enjoy something and it doesn't harm others or yourself, you should by all means partake in that activity." Joshua then scratched his chin. "And I don't understand this talk about being at the bottom of the food chain. Barring Gojo, no one would think any less of you if you read and even if they did, you shouldn't care."

Carmelo angrily and quickly rose to his feet. Joshua took three steps back. 

"I didn't say your ass could look through my fuckin' thoughts! I said I don't read 'kay!? Done! That doesn't give you the fuckin' right to snoop through my head, asshole!"

"I didn't mean to-"

"I'm not going to sit here and let you tell me what I should and should not do!"

Joshua frowned as he stepped forward. "But your decision is based on an assertion that is false. You're not a nerd, you're not a dweeb."

Carmelo gasped. How did he hear-

Joshua shook his head. "I don't know what this "disguise" is, but you don't have to wear it around me."

Carmelo gave Joshua a shove, sending him backwards. Since you can read minds so well, read this: you don't shit about me, fuckwad and I ain't lettin' your nerdy ass find out by invading my personal privacy. I'm sorry, I just can't be around you right now, you're learning too much and I can't have that. Fuck, he can probably hear this too! Lalalalalalalala ..

Carmelo quickly walked down the stairs and out of the library, where he passed Kola reading a book on espionage, with a another book visible in front of that one. Carmelo then made his way to the gym where he blew of steam by punching punching bags with fire coated punches.

Conceal, conceal. Don't let anyone see you. Don't give them the satisfaction.

..

                                                                   

Lillian walked next to Zoe through Gaia's forest as the noon sun's rays shone down on the duo, creating a brilliant sepia as the two walked, their large black boots thudding along the cool, black dirt. In front of them, Bisera had said something witty to Helene, causing the latter to laugh. Her poofy black hair shook jubilantly. Lillian observed a squirrel skittering away due to Helene's shrill laugh.

Lillian surveyed the area acutely. She took note of the witches walking, their long skirts bulging as their legs moved backwards and their black, soft hats seemed to point accusingly at the baby blue sky. She took note of the sun's golden rays as they warmed her freckled face due to her carrying her hat under her arm. She took note of the mystical breeze that playfully tickled the back of her somewhat short legs, bestowing goosebumps upon them. She took note of the dark green leaves of the trees, resting proudly overhead and periodically falling gracefully to the forest floor. She also took note of the fauna that inhabited the magical woodland: fat-cheeked chipmunks, beautiful spiders that spun intricate webs, she even caught a doe that stole a glance before prancing away.

The painting-esque scene before her was not her home, that much was certain. Where were the lights that had successfully driven most of the stars out of the night sky? Where were the "normal" people that checked their smartphones so frequently you'd swear it was simply an updated version of the bible? Where were the cars of all shapes and sizes that filled the streets like fish filled the sea? Where was the invigoratingly sweet aroma of fresh pastries as she passed her local bakery? Where were her band mates as they prepared for practice, her friend Elizabeth sucking the orange Cheetos stains off her fingers?  Where were her loving parents? Where was her pet cat, Chichi?

She knew her home wasn't perfect, she'd never think it was. It simply was where her heart was and she couldn't control where that happened to be. She could admit that there were things about her home that she'd like to change but the forest around her was no simple change, it was something completely different, something alien.

Despite this, at that moment, Lillian couldn't help but feel attracted to the forest. It created a warm feeling in her heart. It was utterly beautiful, so unlike anything she'd ever seen that she was a bit proud to say she was a part of it. She wondered if she could simply have Liverpool as her home while this could be her summer home of sorts.

Lillian blinked, eyes widening in shock as she realized Zoe was waving her hand rapidly in front of her face. "Hello! Earth to Lillian!" said Zoe.

Lillian scratched the back of her head. "Sorry!" she said, smiling. She did her best to hide her sheepishness. For all it was worth, she was impressed with the result.

Zoe lowered her eyelids in annoyance. "Did you hear a word I said?" she inquired.

Lillian nodded, smiling as her curly hair bounced around. "Yeah." 

Zoe put her hands on her hips.

"No.." an embarrassed Lillian corrected before sighing.

Zoe threw her hands up. "Honestly Lillian, what am I going to do with you?" she sighed, shaking her head.

"So what were you saying?" asked Lillian sheepishly.

"Well, before you zoned out on me there," began Zoe, folding her arms before slumping her shoulders. "I was just saying I was sorry that you had to have that super-awkward private lesson with Gaia. I can only imagine how hard it was for you." said Zoe dismally.

Lillian blinked. "Oh." She waved her hands, smirking. "It really wasn't that bad. Gaia was really nice about it and I got some pointers on flying. I improved a bit and I don't think I could have done that without the one-on-one lesson. I actually quite en-" -joyed myself... Lillian looked towards the ground.

Zoe looked at her friend. "What is it Lillian? Is something wrong?"

Lillian shook her head. What am I thinking? Was I honestly about to say that it was fun? That's exactly what Gaia wants me to think it was so I can be like most of the rest who were swooned by her on day one? I can't just abandon Zoe. We're the only two left that our against Gaia. We need to stick together. We need to escape so I can make it back to mum and so Zoe can get back to Joshua.

Lillian frowned, putting her hands behind her back as she walked. She clasped her hands tightly together as her eyebrows curved downward. "No, I'm fine. Just don't worry about it Zoe." She doesn't want to help me learn how to fly because she genuinely cares about me. She wants to help me learn how to fly because she needs me to fly when I'm fighting the PES. Mumsy can't have a handicapped soldier, now can she?

Lillian chided herself for beginning to fall in love with the forest. It was too perfect, too cultivated. She found it so lovely because Gaia molded it that way. Who wouldn't fall in love with a picture? But that's all it was to her, a picture and one without soul at that: specifically made for consumption.

Lillian stopped as her and Zoe entered an area of the forest where the trail widened, allowing all of the witches to stand side-to-side considerably. She didn't mind the rest of the witches. They were simply victims of Gaia's charm and she couldn't hold that against them. She'd try to get along with them, even if she and Zoe remained a bit distant. It was Gaia whom she had a bone to pick. She looked at Gaia defiantly.

Gaia noticed her daughter's sour look and appeared momentarily hurt. They seemed to have had a swell time during flying lessons, why was she so angry now? Gaia was smiling once again. The change was so sudden that Lillian had wondered if she had imagined Gaia's look of hurt.

Gaia clapped her hands together. "All right my daughters, I have gifts for all of you after lunch. Lunch has already been prepared but I've made a game out of it! Scattered around the area are all ten of your lunches. You and your sisters will need to work together to find them. No one eats until every one has a lunch. Good luck!" said Gaia. Most of the girls scrambled in opposite directions, giggling.

Lillian folded her arms before she felt herself being dragged by the arm by Zoe.

"Come on, Ms. Mopey! I didn't mean to bum you out! I want to have fun with this, remember?!"

Lillian smiled, her growling stomach filling her with a burst of determination as she smiled cockily, now running of her own accord. "Yeah, let's find that lunch!"

..

About twenty minutes later, all of the witches had secured their snack bags, allowing them all to feast of their lunches. Each brown paper bag bore a witch's name in small, cursive letters. When opened, the bags would fall into large, brown paper squares that were sturdy enough to be eaten on, the bags effectively turning into plates. Contained in each bag was a personalized meal along with an eating utensil. 

Lillian had already devoured her fried fish, scone, black tea, and fries and had managed to persuade (mostly due to repeated whining) Zoe out of half of her hamburger, her potato chips, her most of her popcorn, and most of her drink which tasted suspiciously like cherry Kool-Aid.

Zoe sighed in annoyance, watching her friend fiendishly shove a handful of popcorn into her mouth which was honestly a bit too full for more food. As she did this, crumbs flew every which way.

"Honestly Lillian, if I didn't know you, I'd swear you'd never seen food in your life." stated Zoe, sounding exasperated yet still smiling.

The British with swallowed her food before she began to speak. "Oh come on Zoe, breakfast was like six hours ago."

"I'm surprised you're not a blob with how much you eat." snickered Zoe.

Lillian chuckled before stealing a glance at Zoe's slim figure. She had seen for herself just how lean her blond friend's stomach was. She did bathe with her after all. She couldn't help but slowly put a hand over her own stomach, self-consciousness coming over her. Lillian was not overweight by any means, yet she did not come close to comparing to Zoe who she would until the day she died swear could fit right in on the cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine. Her friend's words were true, despite her voracity, her frame was still modest. 

Lillian turned to the skinny Xaviera who was devouring a giant trout then to the slightly chubby Amalija who was quietly laughing at something Isabella had said, the nun finishing her small bowl of porridge long ago. It's so weird how these things work sometimes.

"Come along girls, time for your gifts!" beamed Gaia, not too far away. The witches rose to meet their mother, a fish still in Xaviera's mouth as she ran towards Gaia on all fours.Felicia's face quickly turned crimson after the jungle girl had ran under her skirt.

Isabella gave a toothy grin as she nudged her fellow witch's shoulder with her elbow. "Aw come on, no need to be embarrassed." Felicia simply turned away, silently.

Gaia stood in front of a large tree. At her feet was a large brown chest. "In this chest you'll find something that will help you with your magic. It's they're a pair of nifty little things that Ankur helped me whip up last night. They'll help you collect mana in the environment more quickly. Additionally, they'll help you be comfortable in nearly any environment. Furthermore, they'll provide an extra layer of protection against Juan's soldier's, coating your body with defensive magic. Finally, once the time arrives, they will help you with teleportation magic."

Felicia's eyes widened at the mention of teleportation magic.

"Well, what are they?" asked Isabella.

Gaia stepped away while smiling as she held her arm out towards the box, her sleeve dangling. "Take a look and see, my daughter."

Haoi Mi excitedly ran to the chest and threw it open, the top half flying backwards. She reached her hand inside and took out strips of black fabric tied together by white string.

"Socks?" said Haoi Mi, sounding a bit disappointed. 

Once Xaviera took hers, she turned her head and gazed up at Bisera with her large, brown eyes. "What are socks?" she asked, stretching the word "socks", emphasizing its foreignness. 

Bisera smiled. "They're something you put on your feet." she revealed.

Xaviera groaned. "Noo! I no like things on my feet! I already have stupid shoes!" she whined, folding her arms as she stomped a foot on the ground.

Bisera smiled warmly as she eased Xaviera onto the ground, the young witch's feet in front of he body. Bisera gently pulled Xaviera's black boots off her feet. "Now your feet won't smell stinky."

Xaviera was silent, considering the advantages. No smell mean no animals find me when I sleep.

Bisera tapped her chin thoughtfully. I hope this doesn't weaken my connection to the plants..

Lillian hopped around as she pulled on her sock. She pulled it to just over her knee. The top of her sock had two vertical red bands. "High socks?" she mumbled not very quietly. "I wouldn't be surprised if we're wearing these just to appeal to some dude's weird fetish.."

Zoe smiled. "I dunno' I kind of like them!" She wore her socks thigh-high and her bands were yellow. "There's a term for the area of bare skin that's between socks and a skirt you know. It's called Zettai Ryouiki or absolute territory." she informed.

Lillian smiled, as she folded her arms. "That's Japanese, right?" she asked.

"Correct." Zoe confirmed with a smug smile. "Sorry if that seemed weeb-ish of me."

Lillian raised her eyebrows. "Weeb?" she inquired.

Zoe shook her head. "It's just a term."

"You seem to know a lot about Japanese things. Did you learn about it from Joshua?" Lillian questioned. As soon as she asked, she immediately regretted it.

Zoe raised a dubious eyebrow at her friend. "Joshua? No, I've wanted to go to Tokyo ever since I was little. Since I liked the place so much, I decided to find out more about its culture and among other things, it introduced me to anime. While its true that Joshua likes geeky things, like me, I'm the one who introduced him to anime." she explained.

"Oh.." Lillian uttered quietly. She looked away in embarrassment. "Sorry." she apologized. Lillian supposed that she believed Joshua was the one who taught her about Japanese culture because Zoe claimed that he was the reason she wore her hair in ondango pigtails when she first arrived.

"Hey, don't pout. There's no way you could know." Zoe said.

Lillian shook her head. "Well, I shouldn't have made an assumption. You know what they say." Gaia had said something, prompting most of the witches to follow her as she began to walk away from the area. The teenager was in no rush to follow Gaia so she looked around for a distraction. A bit behind them, Amalija, Felecia, Isabella and Kajsa were sitting on a log, merrily pulling on their socks. An excuse: just what she needed.

Lillian tentatively approached the three witches and the cat. The sun shone from the branches of a tree, brightening the area around the log in an otherwise dark forest. Lillian had noticed that Amalija appeared to be much more jovial. To Lillian, it seemed like the spectacled witch had accepted something in her, rejecting nothing. Lillian had never noticed Amalija smile but now, as she quietly laughed with her boisterous friend, Isabella, the witch noticed that when the end of Amalija's small pink lips turned upwards, there was an innocent, holy quality about them.

As the light from the sun bathed the three smiling witches in soft yellow, Lillian mused. Another painting.

"Hey, Gaia said to follow her you guys should probably hurry up so you're not left behind." Lillian stated somewhat uncertainly, fidgeting with her hands. Kajsa meowed as he walked towards Lillian. He appeared to be smiling at her. At the appearance of someone who was not one of her three close friends, Felicia turned her head away from Lillian bashfully as her hands instinctively began to play with each other.

Isabella smirked, jumping onto her feet while in her new socks that reached up to her upper thighs. Lillian stepped backward due to how suddenly Isabella had leapt upwards. The green-haired which folded her arms as she stepped forward, and looked down at Lillian.

"Aw, how kind of you." complimented Isabella, somewhat mockingly.

Lillian gave a phony, toothy smile as she made a fist and moved her arm. "Just looking out for my fellow witch." she smiled.

Isabella snorted as she smiled widely. "That was so forced it hurt." she chuckled. "I get it, you just came so you had an excuse to not be near Gaia. It's fine."

Lillian smiled. "You don't feel used?" she asked. Zoe walked up to her side.

Isabella gave a bitter chuckle as she looked off to the side and flicked her hand dismissively. "I'm used to it." Eager to change the subject, Isabella looked at Lillian's socks. "I'm not too sure if the pros outweigh the cons with these little socks o' ours." she snickered.

Lillian raised her eyebrows nervously.She took a pause before speaking. "What do you-?"

"I mean, with the way that these things are so sensually black, the way that they leave a small, tantalizing section of bare flesh, and especially with the way that your thigh looks so big and soft, I bet you'll have trouble making sure those fiendish PES don't grab you and lick you all over." Isabella joked, her voice becoming more and more sultry as she went on. She teasingly tugged Lillian's sock, causing her to move away, her face red.

"Isabella!" chastised Amalija.

Felicia was red as a fire hydrant as she put her hands on the side of her head. Her thoughts immediately went to the PES with spiky black hair.

"Whoa there." said Zoe, causing Isabella to chuckle more.

Aware that almost everyone was somewhat uncomfortable, Amalija changed the subject without much thought.

"So Isabella, when we were eating lunch, I was wondering if you knew when the next time you'd need to eat would b-."

Isabella was near Amalija in a flash, slapping her hand over her friend's mouth before she could say another word. Isabella smiled as she looked up at the confused Zoe and Lillian. "I think you two should leave." she said sweetly.

The two looked at each other uncertainly before turning around and quickly walking away. Once they were far away, Isabella sighed and removed her hand from Amalija's face.

Amalija shook her head. "I'm so sorry, I wasn't thinking..."

"I'm confused." began Felecia softly. "We are all sisters here, why don't you want them to know?"

Isabella shook her head sadly. "Look, I know we're all sisters but for right now at least..leafy.I still only want you two to know about..about the situation." explained Isabella, ashamed. "All right, I know it's not right but-"

Felicia smiled slightly. "It's alright Isabella, there's nothing wrong with being closer to someone than others."

...

Carmelo walked down the hall with a frown. He wasn't aware what was occurring around him due to being utterly and totally absorbed in the music blasting from his headphones. The teenager tried his best to ignore the tapping on his shoulder, hoping the owner of the finger would take a hint.

As the tapping persisted, Carmelo growled in irritation. He paused the song and ripped off his headphones as he spun around. "What the hell is it!?"

When he turned around, he saw Akmal and Zack grinning. Oh great, not these morons...

"Howdy Carmelo!" greeted Zack.

"Ugh, your friggin' accent makes me wanna' puke.." Carmelo mumbled. "What is it?"

"Well, we found a...um...secret section in the library and we thought you might want a book from it." Zack revealed.

"Don't read, sorry." replied Carmelo curtly.

Akmal chuckled. "Um, they're not really books that you read."

"Wait, wha-? What type of.."

Zack cleared his throat. "They're um, we, they're kind of skin magazines..."

Carmelo lowered her eyebrows. "In Master Juan's library..." he said in disbelief.

"I know, right!?" said Akmal.

"Weren't you readin' some science mumbo-jumbo because the little freak told you to like a lil' bitch?"

Akmal frowned. "What's the big idea, tough guy?"

Zack raised his hands. "Easy now, I was the one who stumbled across them." "So what do you say, do you want a-" but Carmelo had already put his headphones back on and was briskly walking forward. Zack turned to Akmal. "So, what do you think he likes? Biker girls? Girls with tattoos?"

"I'd say girls with piercings, but not a crazy amount of piercings."

Zack nodded. "And we'll find one with a smart-lookin' girl for Joshua."

Chapter Twenty-One: Melting HeartsEdit

The witches were walking to a lake to practice magic, their trot shaded by trees with large, branches. Despite the presence of the leaves, light managed to creep through the bare spaces on the branches, creating mirrored light cracks on the ground. The witches walked with lights hearts, devotedly following their mother who walked in front. With some of the witches even skipping, the scene was quite marvel. The fact that Gaia seemed to posses the uncanny ability to melt all of her daughters' fears away understandably caused them to admire her. Lillian and Zoe were ever wary, yet remained sociable if spoken to, not wanting to look down on those that they felt were hypnotized into following Gaia.

Helene looked around smiling. She was impressed with the forest's eternal beauty. Usually, she'd see something that caught her fancy, only to soon realize that its beauty was fleeting and thus not worth capturing on one of her glorious canvas, after all, it was hers and she didn't want to sully something she owned with something that wasn't absolutely amazing. Gaia's forest had proved to be beautiful no matter how many times the narcissistic witch had visited it. For this reason, her slender caramel fingers were itching to replicate the forest in the form of a breathtaking painting.

Helene closed her eyes, using all of her willpower to stifle a laugh, diluting it into a giggle. A beautiful forest for a gorgeous girl. The floodgates exploded, allowing Helene to let out a shrill laugh, causing several of her sisters to jump, frightened at the sound.

Despite her sister's laugh giving her a bit of a scare, Haoi Mi bore no hard feelings towards Helene who turned to speak directly after laughing.

Helene threw out her hands grandiosely, hitting Afisa square in the face and garnering an annoyed, "Hey!" which Helene callously ignored. "Isn't Mother's forest simply magnificent Haoi Mi!?" Helene asked.

Haoi Mi nodded with a smile before craning her head upwards quickly, her ponytail bouncing in the air. "It sure is! The best thing about it is that it's so inspiring! I can get so many song ideas just by walking around for a few minutes." she revealed.

Helene beamed, eyes wide as she nodded furiously, her fluffy hair bouncing accordingly. "Yes, most definitely!" Helene wrapped an arm around Haoi Mi's shoulders. "That's why we're so good friends, because we're fellow artists. We understand each other in ways the rest of our sisters can only dream of." Helene rationalized, not realizing that she wasn't close to many of her sisters because they felt she was annoying, ignoring the fact that Haoi Mi had other somewhat close relationships besides with her, and being unaware that there were other fellow artists such as Lillian.

Afisa, still irritated at her accidental assault, raised a critical eyebrow. "Is inspiration the only reason you're here?" she inquired.

Helene giggled. "You think that I'm that simple? You poor thing, you. Fear not, though the cave of ignorance is long, I shall educate you and be your light."

Afisa gritted her teeth. "Lead the way, o' wise one."

"I decided to join Gaia because she said that she'd teach me how to incorporate my magic into my paintings. How could I refuse? Infusing magic into my already amazing paintings to make them even more amazing? I'd have to say mad to say no. Not to mention, she mentioned she'd help me become known far and wide. I love being with mother because I can be all of me. Back in France, I didn't use my powers despite my comfortableness with them because..." Helene recalled headlines detailing the incident when she was an infant where she crashed a plane. "...of...complications. Here however, I can use my magic without discretion, which is the way it should be! After all, every part of Helene Francois Delacroix is a work of art and each part deserves to be enjoyed. I also love being with Gaia because there is never a dull moment. Sure, staying in a room and painting is fun and all, but you need to go outside for a bit and experience the world so you have a bigger creative pool to work with."

Afisa blinked. "Those are...actually pretty good reasons for enjoying being with mom." she admitted, somewhat shocked.

Helene smiled. "Of course they are. What do you take me for, shallow?"

Afisa bit the inside of her cheek before being shoved out the way by Xaviera, who was grinning and jumping up and down.

"Can me say why love  being with momma?!" the young witch excitedly asked.

"I don't see why not." answered Afisa.

"First, momma so pretty! Like I see big blue flower all the time, she even smell like flower and fruit! I also get to eat whenever I want, so never ever hungry! I can also learn how to be flower with sisters! I also love how momma takes care of me! Even though I never had momma, I no angry because momma so nice to me now." Xaviera folded her arms and turned away. She turned her head slightly towards Afisa, Haoi Mi, and Helene. "And even though artist girl is annoying, music girl is okay  but plays too late a lot, and Isabella can be mean, I know you all love me and I'm happy that we together because this is my first time having family."

Afisa smiled warmly. 

Helene smirked."Even though you don't know the meaning of annoying, you're not a bad sister." Certainly an uncouth one, but...

With a grin, Haoi Mi shuffled closer to Xaviera and enveloped her in a snug hug. "I'm happy that we're together as well. Let's stay together." Xaviera broke away from the hug and turned away, blushing.

"What about you? Why you like being with momma?" Xaviera inquired, wishing to shift the focus away from her.

Haoi Mi blinked, caught slightly off guard. "Oh, me? It's not a complicated reason. I just like being with Gaia because she helps me develop my magic. I've improved more with her than I have in my entire life. It's cool to see my magic flourish even if I don't get that much sleep, because getting to talk to and entertain those who haven't passed on is more important. Being with Gaia also gives me more publicity and you guys listening to my music proves that." Haoi Mi explained. She folded her arms and tapped her foot, trying to think of another reason. "Umm..." she said before smiling. "And fighting the PES is super fun and it's good for the world to boot. Plus I like being with you guys."

"I suppose it's only fair that I tell you guys why I like being with mom and you guys." began Afisa. "Like Helene, I enjoy not having to hide my power. I am a person and I shouldn't be ashamed of who I am. I also like the fact that I feel like I belong here since at our core, we're all alike here. I hope that with mom, we can show the world that witches aren't bad by destroying the PES."

Afisa's eyes narrowed as she turned over her shoulder, looking at Zoe and Lillian. "We all like being here but those two absolutely hate it here." Afisa stated, exaggerating the word hate. "They hate mom so much because she's so evil. Hopefully our heroes can make it back to their perfect little suburbs so they can go back to Snapchatting on their bedazzled smart phones, drinking their lattes from Starbucks, and making out with their quarterback boyfriends in the locker room." she sneered.

Helene frowned. "Yes, they act like they're so much better than us when one can barely perform the simplest of spells. They're lucky mother puts up with them."

Bisera frowned, sadly, causing Helene and Afisa to go silent. "Hey now, let's not make fun of our sisters. We're all witches, even if we don't feel the same way all the time. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you were brought to a place that you didn't want to go, that you weren't sure you'd fit in. Let's all love one another."

Afisa folded her arms, sighed, and continued walking.

The girls were heading to the lake, which Gaia had named Lake Precious, to practice their flying skills. While the girls enjoyed their previous activity of sharpening their aim by blasting shadowy apperations with their spells, they were more eager to practice flying. The natural human desire to fly was simply too great. How could they not be absolutely gay at the prospect of soaring through the air with reckless abandon, to feel the wind zooming across their youthful faces, to let their sheer speed cause their hair to whip around crazily. Why, some of them reckoned it would be just like riding the fastest roller coaster. Besides, the PES and Isabella could fly, why shouldn't the rest of the witches?

Felecia was especially eager to continue her broomstick-flying practice. Although she retained her cool, quiet demeanor as she walked, the ends of her lips kept periodically twitching upwards as she gripped her skirt firmly. She couldn't wait to let loose.

The group had made it to an opening in the forest. Beyond, the girls could see a magnificent blue lake. As the sun's rays hit the water's surface, it seemed to magically glitter.

Xaviera smiled widely as she leaned forward while on the tips of her toes. "I think me want to swim better than fly!" she said excitedly, itching to discarded her clothes and take a dive into the most likely cool waters.

Afisa leaned forward and whispered into the young witch's ear. "It's "I think me, er, want to swim rather than fly"." she corrected.

Gaia smirked. "Oh, I'm sure you girls will get to swim soon enough." she said before giving a wink. As a result, Xaviera jumped up and down, clapping furiously while exclaiming, "Swimming! Swimming!"

The witches looked at each other, excitedly. The prospect of swimming was enticing, yet she still impatiently wished to fly.

"All right my children, Lake Precious is just ahead. You may enter and begin training. I shall be with you all momentarily." Gaia stated in her calm, motherly voice. The witches practically ran past their mother, giddy smiles infecting all of them. Ankur flew from Gaia's shoulder.

"If any of you girls need help, I'll be in the lake." said Ankur while he was a crow. He made a falcon-dive into the lake and he emerged as a type of plesiosaurus.

Lillian was the only girl who didn't run to the lake. As she was about to pass Gaia, the ludicrously tall woman put a gentle hand on her shoulder, halting the British girl. Lillian's body shivered.

Gaia gave a soft smile. "I'll work with you hands-on for a bit, you need the most help so-"

Lillian closed her eyes and annoyance and broke away. "No thanks." she said, curtly.

Gaia blinked before smiling, somewhat confusedly. "Lillian, it will only be for a bit. I want to see you fly." she explained.

Lillian's frown began to turn into a scowl as she looked at Gaia. "Yeah, well I don't quite care. I don't want you teaching me and certainly not alone."

Gaia threw out her hands. "Then you can practice with the rest of your sisters. Honestly Lillian, I just thought-" Gaia began in exasperation.

"No, stop. You don't care about my feelings don't kid yourself. This isn't about us, it's all about you." Lillian sneered. "Admit it."

"I will not admit such a thing for it's not true." Gaia retorted in annoyance.

Lillian snorted. "That's rich. You know that this is all a big ego trip. You talk about how Juan is so conceited to demonize him, but he's probably the good guy here. All you are is a kidnapper!" she snapped.

Gaia's eyes widened as her lip quivered. "Lillian Amanda Bynes!"

"Don't you dare say my full name!" Lillian shouted with fury. She breathed heavily as her eyes widened and she clenched her fists. "You aren't my mom and you never will be, no matter how hard you try to convince me otherwise. You can cook for us, you can give us baths, you can teach us, and kiss us on our foreheads and night, but that's all to further the Cult of Gaia." Lillian swallowed. "The fact still stands that you fucking kidnapped us!" Did I just cuss at an adult? Oh god. Wait, no Lillian, she deserves it! "You took us from our real parents to replace them, to make us feel a greater connection to us. This is all just so we can love you unflinchingly so we can do whatever you say like slaves. Everyone else, even Amalija, might have fallen for your trap but me and Zoe haven't. We know that you don't really love us. We know that this is all so you can have pawns that will die for you, meat shields because you're too much of a coward to fight Juan yourself. I know that you just want to train me one-on-one not because you care about me and genuinely want to see me succeed for my well-being, but you want to see me succeed just so you can have more ammunition against the psychics. I mean, what's a pawn that can't move right? You need us to move to the end of the boards to become rooks, that way we're more valuable to you. You can't have one of your followers not be able to do a simple task can you? You also want to train me one-on-one because you hope that it will draw me closer to you, make me trust you. So no Gaia, or whoever you are. I will not let you train another second with me, because for a second, I was falling for it, I thought you did genuinely care about me, I thought you were helping me because of me, I did trust you, I did see you as a mother for a split-second. For a moment, I enjoyed being trapped here with you and that disgusts me! I had to take a second to think and realize that you don't care, you're not a mom, you're nothing but a sick freak. So I'm not going to let you train me because I refuse to be under mind-control. I don't want to be part of the cult and I never will. Stop trying to make me believe that I'm a witch, that I have some spectacular ability. I'm an insignificant plain Jane and you know it. I'm not a witch and I never will be. Go spread your gospel to the true believers." spat Lillian before turning around and storming away.

Lillian didn't turn around, not wanting to see an ugly scowl from Gaia. In reality, Gaia's eyes were closed as she put her hand over her mouth, trying unsuccessfully to silence her crying.

Lillian walked off the path and past a few trees into she was in a cool grove. She sighed. Thank god I at least know how to use manaspace. Lillian fished through the ethereal plane and took out a long broomstick that she pocketed earlier. She closed her eyes and tried to let the mana from the environment flow through her. She thought she felt something and tried to direct the warm feeling she felt to her broom. She leapt through the air with her long broomstick between her legs before crashing back to the ground. She did it again and again with the same effect.

Lillian slowly picked herself up off the ground. Why am I doing this? Why do I care if I can fly or not? Flying just helps Gaia. Why don't I just practice making potions? I'm good at that. Or summoning things? That's actually fun compared to just falling on my bum. Lillian sighed as she remembered the other girls flying, as she thought about how good Zoe seemed at almost everything.

Lillian recalled her mother sighing at the dinner table as her daughter looked away in shame. "What am I going to do with you? You can't get kicked out of another school. I know you're talented." she recalled her saying. Yet Lillian recalled thinking her mother was mistaken.

So she continued to attempt to fly...

...

Zoe smiled widely as pink smoke and small, multi-colored fireworks erupted from the large black cauldron that she stood behind. Her fellow witches leaned forward with impressed "oohs" and "ahs" while Gaia proudly oversaw the procedure.

Zoe clenched her fists with excitement. Yes, it’s working!

Once the smoke had cleared, the witches collectively held their breaths. Zoe’s eyes widened and practically twinkled once a slightly large brown bunny poked its head from the cauldron. It wasn’t a grandiose summon, but it was certainly a start. It slowly turned its head, meeting the adoring eyes of the witches before it leapt out of the cauldron and hopped away.

Smiling, Gaia sprang up from the tree stump she was sitting on. "Bravo! That was a wonderful demonstration Zoe. Give a round of applause to your sister." said Gaia, prompting the witches to clap for Zoe.

The blond witch turned around and smiled at the sight of every one of her sisters clapping for her. "Thank you." she said gratefully with a bow.

Once the clapping died down, Lillian stepped forward with a smile. "Congratulations on your first successful summon. No more raging behemoths for you, am I right?" she chuckled, giving Zoe a playful, weak punch to the shoulder.

Zoe folded her arms. “Are you mocking me?” asked Zoe with a sceptical smile as she folded her arms.

Lillian blinked in shock. “What? No.” she denied. “How would I be mocking you?”

Zoe rolled her eyes. “C’mon Lil, we both know that I wouldn’t have been to summon anything if it weren’t for you walking me through it.”

Lillian smiled bashfully and flicked her hand dismissively. “Oh please, you could have done it yourself. It doesn’t mean much if I know the instructions, but I can’t apply them. Any gal can effectively analyze the mana in the environment, use the desired ones to use in a summoning ritual, use correct ratios, and maintain a proper speed and tempo in order to summon an animal.”

Zoe laughed as she shook her head. “Whatever, know it all.” she joked. Her smile slowly faded when she looked at the serious facial expression that Lillian gave her. “You’re...you’re serious.” she concluded, shocked.

“Daughters.” called Gaia, prompting the witches to turn to her.

Zoe leaned closer to Lillian. “Hey, is it me or has Gaia been...off for the past few hours?” she asked.

Lillian shook her head with a frown. “She just seems like the same old Gaia to me.”

Zoe folded her arms with a frown. “I don’t know, it just seems like she’s been a bit distant, like something’s on her mind. She’s been frowning, sighing and looking off into the distance a lot too.”

“Aw, well if you feel so bad, bake her a cake. It must be so hard for her to be a kidnapper.” Lillian said lowly.

Ankur leaned against a tree with his arms folded, frowning at Lillian. He had blended in exceptionally with the environment, making him virtually invisible to Lillian and Zoe. Due to this, when he spoke, he caused Lillian to leap away with a fearful yelp. “Bearing the responsibility of every living thing on this planet does carry an untold amount of stress and woe. Gaia has been content with the belief that her daughters at least appreciate her and do not defile her, unlike humanity as a whole. Being assaulted with the cold fact that some of her daughters, despite her nurturing, wish nothing more to be rid of her, no doubt caused her great pain. It does not help matters that this message was delivered in an inconsiderately blunt matter.” Ankur said lowly. What chilled Lillian was that he sounded neither angry nor irritated, the only thing that conveyed his dissatisfaction was his cold facial expression.

The three turned to Gaia again once she began speaking. “As I hinted at earlier, we are going swimming!” she revealed joyfully.

“Yay!” cried Xaviera, jumping up.

Amalija smiled as she put her hands together. “Oh what fun. I love beaches.”

Afisa raised her left hand slightly above her head. “Uh, mom? What are we supposed to do about bathing suits?” she inquired. Gaia closed her eyes once Afisa said “mom”.

Gaia opened her eyes. “Not to fret, that issue will be covered. The interesting part is the method of getting there. You’ve all made significant strides in mastering the art of flying. Though you all still have a long way to go, you all have the basic mechanics down. Today will be your first test in flying. You all will fly to the beach which is on the other side of Lake Precious. All of your fly up above these trees and practice for a bit. I will catch up with you soon.”

The witches spread away from each other and took out their brooms. Lillian awkwardly stood near Zoe.

Gaia cleared her throat before swallowing. “Lillian?” she said. “A word?” Lillian blinked before turning to Zoe who regarded her with concern. Her mind was ignited with horrible thoughts of corporal punishment inflicted on Lillian at the hands of Gaia.

Ankur folded his arms and regarded the two girls who, the tallest of two only coming up to the top of his chest. “Being away from your sister for a little bit won’t hurt either of you.” he said, stepping of the tree.

Zoe quickly turned towards the familiar, her eyes ablaze with defiance. “What if Gaia hurts her?!” she snapped.

Ankur calmly shook his head with his eyes closed as he exhaled through his nose. “That isn’t something that you must worry about. Gaia isn’t the monster you think she is.” he explained. Zoe turned away with a frown. Ankur bent his knees so he could be eye-level with the witch. “You have my word. Now go, we wouldn’t want you falling on your way to the beach.”

Zoe walked away, giving Lillian a sad look. She placed her broom between her legs before quickly ascending through the air, crying out in surprise as she smashed through branches. Lillian winced as she did this.

With the rest of the witches gone, the forest had become eerily quiet. The particular section of the forest that they found themselves in was fairly dark. Lillian could see things just fine but the area was still quite dim. Lillian couldn’t help but wonder why Ankur got to stay while Gaia reprimanded her while Zoe had to leave. Maybe whatever sick punishment Gaia had in mind required two people. Despite the air’s coolness, she couldn’t help but find her sweating. It had become apparent to her that Ankur and Gaia were simply staring at her. The silence distraught Lillian to no end. She just wished that they would blow up at her, explode, scream their heads off. But instead they just stood in place. Lillian was not sure if her beating heart was what caused the two to not seem like they breathed, or if they genuinely did not breathe.

After what seemed like an eternity, Gaia began walking slowly towards Lillian. Lillian’s eyes were trained on Gaia’s unnatural, yellow, cat-like eyes. She swallowed loudly once Gaia was in front of her. Lillian craned her neck upward to get a better view of Gaia’s face. Much to the teenager’s shock, Gaia crouched down so her face could be closer to Lillian’s.

Gaia turned away and swallowed before looking into Lillian’s large, brown eyes. “I…” Gaia closed her eyes and exhaled through her mouth.

So she does breathe…

Gaia opened her eyes once more. “I’d just like to begin by apologizing for not taking your feelings into consideration. I suppose I just saw the general contentedness around me, and decided to ignore the outliers: you, Zoe, and Amalija. No good mother, or someone who wishes to be a good mother would ever do that. That attitude reeks of favoritism because it would seem as if I didn’t care about you three as much as the others. Please understand, that was never my intention Lillian. I just did not see it as much as an issue, for I believed you three would just...naturally discard you unease. Amalija certainly did and I believed wholeheartedly that you would too.” Gaia revealed. The grand witch shook her head. “That was foolish of me. I should have realized how deep the grudge you harbored against me ran. You two believe that I have ruined your lives due to your...abduction and that is why you loathe me so.” Gaia then let out a sorrowful sigh. “That is only a natural feeling. The rest of the witches came with me of their own accords. You and Zoe refused to and so I..felt you two needed a little “incentive”. For you, I actually thought it would see it as beneficial if I took you when you were supposed to go to that boarding school, for your natural birth mother wouldn’t be disappointed that way.” Gaia chuckled bitterly. “I actually thought that by the end of our first week together, you two would actually be grateful that I took you, that all your misgivings about me would disappear.” Gaia shook her head. “You’re right about me being egotistical. I had the gall to believe two teenage girls would be grateful towards me for abducting them and taking them away from their families. I should have been more emphatic, for I too know the feeling of having someone foreign claim the role of a parental figure. I know the feeling of utter disbelief, the feeling of denial, the lack of trust. I shouldn’t have assumed that you’d easily accept me as your mother since I would not easily be able to do such a thing myself.”

Lillian raised her eyebrows at Gaia as she said this. “What? How could you possibly know the feeling? If what you say is true, you’re The Earth. Who in their right mind would try to convince you that they’re your mother, separate from the one you think you have.”

Gaia smiled. “I told you that I wasn’t always the Earth, remember? I was in a position uncannily like the one you find yourself in today. I had a parental figure as well. I wish she was still here, she was a far better teacher than I ever will be, but that’s a story for another day.” Gaia’s smile soon faded once more. “Again, I’m sorry for kidnapping you Zoe, I just did what I felt was right.”

“How could kidnapping children possibly be right?”

Gaia shook her head. “That in and of itself isn’t right. The lessons I’m teaching you are valuable though. I don’t want you to be harmed by Juan Carlos and his monstrous PES. Admittedly, I also didn’t consider it kidnapping for you come from me.”

“But aren’t we in more danger from Juan Carlos by being with you?” Lillian asked in exasperation.

Ankur shook his head. “Not necessarily. We have reason to believe Juan Carlos would hunt you girls down even without making contact with Gaia, but just let your mother finish the story.”

“Cult.” Gaia said in a way that made her sound as if she was coughing out the word. “I’m sorry that you see our family in such a negative light, yet I understand wholeheartedly.” Gaia held out her hand which was soon enveloped in a large, blue flame. “Witchcraft is a tough pill to swallow for someone who hasn’t been exposed to it. Your skepticism is only natural.” Gaia cleared her throat and extinguished the flame as her eyebrows turned, giving her a look of sternness. “Your disdain for me brings me great sorrow, but I must tell you this, Lillian: your sisters aren’t under mind-control. No such spells were cast on them and none shall be. I know it may hard to believe, but I don’t act loving and caring towards you girls in some sadistic attempt to mold you all into lemmings for some dastardly cause. I genuinely do love and care for you girls because you’re my…” Gaia caught herself, taking Lillian’s feelings into consideration. She phrased the rest of her sentence differently than originally intended. “..because I see you as my daughters. My intention isn’t to manipulate you, simply to give you the compassion that I believe daughters deserve from their mother. Lillian, even if you refuse to believe me, I just need to tell you I love you unconditionally. I will not cease loving you even if you loathe me, I will not cease loving you even if you stab me in the back. I love all of my daughters with all of my heart. Everything that I do, it’s for you, not me. I’d rather be stabbed, beaten, stomped on than have one of you harmed.”

Lillian frowned. She..can’t be telling the truth. This is all just another elaborate trick, right?

“I apologize for all that I’ve done to make you feel this way. I promise that once I’ve taught you everything that I feel is vital for you to know, I will allow you to choose to stay or to return to the humans.”

Lillian gasped softly once Gaia said this. “You remember..” she breathed softly, intended her remark to be a simple thought.

Gaia faintly nodded with a small smile. “Yes, Lillian. I remembered. I would never hold you here indefinitely against your will. The ultimate battle between the witches and the Juan Carlos’ PES will undoubtedly be a catastrophic one. No one should be forced to endure something like that. However, I cannot release you all to be sitting ducks for Juan’s dogs. I will give you the tools necessary to fend off the PES should they come for you then I will grant you the option of leaving. Does that sound reasonable?”

Lillian swallowed, recalling the horrible tale that Zoe told of the fiery PES. She recalled how fatigued and terrified Afisa and Bisera were once they returned from a run-in with a PES a few days prior. Imagining their power made the teenager shiver. If she continued thinking about them, her legs would surely buckle as she let out a shudder. What scared Lillian the most however was not of what would happen if the PES came after her; what scared Lillian the most was the possibility of the PES murdering her defenseless parents and pet cat.

“Yes.” Lillian said quietly, eyes unfocused. As long as you stick to your word.

“Another important thing,” began Gaia. She moved closer to Lillian who began to sweat uncomfortably as a result. Gaia gently lifted Lillian’s squirt, causing Lillian’s eyes to widen as her white, frilly panties were exposed. Oh god, what is she doing? What the bloody hell is she doing!? This is weird, this is very weird! Bad touch! Is Ankur here to hold me down!? Lillian sighed in ecstasy as Gaia’s slender finger poked her belly button, causing her jark to glow in various colors. One section was red, while another was green, another blue, and another yellow. The colors slowly, gradually shifted counterclockwise. “You are a witch.” Gaia stated softly.

Lillian looked down in awe at her multi-colored stomach, seeming to forget her anger at being branded. “But all my life I’ve been so plain…” Lillian whispered. Gaia shook her head with a smile. “You aren’t plain Lillian. You’re just as wonderful as the rest of your sisters.”

“But look at Zoe! She’s so good at everything.”

Gaia chuckled. “Not summoning, among other things. A little birdie told me you helped her with her demonstration today.”

Ankur began to walk forward. “You are amazing Lillian. It’s just that you don’t see it yet.” The topless man held out his arms with a smirk. “Sometimes we just need a little push from the ones we love.”

Gaia smiled as she let Lillian’s dress fall back down. She put a finger on the teenager’s forehead. “I won’t stop trying to make you believe you have “some spectacular ability”, because you do have that ability. If I hear you doubting yourself again, I’ll turn you into a goose. I want to continue training you so that one day, you’ll feel as amazing as I know you are. I want you to be happy and successful Lillian. Can I continue training you for those reasons Lillian?” Gaia asked.

Lillian averted her eyes from Gaia and Ankur, and looked off to the side. She grew red and hot as she folded her arms. “Yes you can continue training me.” she mumbled.

Gaia smiled and turned to Ankur who gave her a high-five before they embraced. Lillian blinked, baffled at the display.

Gaia broke away from her familiar and turned to Lillian. “Silly me, I can’t celebrate just yet. I must ask, is there anything I can do for you to trust me?”

Lillian was silent. “I’m..I’m not sure.”

“Anything at all?” Gaia pleaded.

“Well…” Lillian began, fishing for ideas. “Tell me the truth. Why did you gather us? If you cared so much about us learning about who we are, then why now? It seems too much of a coincidence that you gathered us around the same time Juan began gathering the PES. On the first day, Afisa asked if you we were essentially your bodyguards, and you answered “yes”. Now you’re telling me you brought us here to protect us from the PES. Which is it?”

Gaia sighed. “It’s a bit of both, actually. I felt it a mutualistic relationship. Juan Carlos began mounting his army and I had to find you girls to make sure you were safe. I don’t doubt that madman Juan Carlos would track down and murder each and every one of your girls. Additionally, even though I am The Earth, extended suffering from the hands of humans, among other factors, has left me weakened. Although it’s up in the air who is stronger, there is a possibility that Juan Carlos could best me and that worries me. If Juan Carlos was backed by ten fully trained psychics then I do not doubt that I’d be slain. You were indeed gathered in order to ensure that I do not perish. You girls are more important to me though, and I’d much rather die than have to see you die. If I feel that you can’t win the battle, I won’t send you to slaughter. Furthermore, you all have the choice of staying with me. I do not want any of you to feel as if you’re being forced to risk your lives. After I feel you have been taught an adequate amount of lessons, I shall let you make the choice of staying with me.”

Lillian nodded. “So if Juan Carlos wasn’t a threat you wouldn’t have cared to found us? You didn’t feel the need to teach us about our powers during a time of peace? You wouldn’t have taught us in a less...secure environment?” she questioned.

Gaia sighed sadly. “I believed that some of you wouldn’t want to leave with me. The only reason I forced Zoe here was due to the dire situation. I also recognized there were some of my daughters that really needed my hands-on guidance such as Isabella, Afisa, and Xaviera, but…” over the shoulder of Lillian, Gaia saw a smirking youth with brown skin and long, black hair. The tall witch blinked and the youth was gone. “...circumstances have caused me to be skeptical of the idea of taking people under my wing. I know it was a stupid decision, one that was bred from fear, but I will explain myself at a later date.”

“Are we the only witches?” asked Lillian.

Gaia shook her head. “You have many more sisters throughout the planet. I chose you girls through a mixture of seeing who was the strongest and a mother’s hunch.”

“But having more of us fighting the PES make things a lot easier? Not to mention..” Lillian’s eyes widened. “You can’t defend them from Juan as easily!”

“It won’t do me much good if they’re not strong enough to combat the PES. Even though there are more witches, there are really only about ten strong enough to pose a significant threat to the PES. There also aren't’ that many more witches, and most of their magic signatures are so low that Juan Carlos would have trouble locating them. If the need arises, you can be certain that I will protect your other sisters.”

“Are the PES really monsters?” Lillian asked.

Gaia turned towards her familiar. “Ankur?”

“No, I asked you Gaia.” Lillian clarified sternly. “Even if you don’t know all of the exact terms, explain it to the best of your ability, truthfully.”

Gaia scratched their head. “Well, they’re somewhat human, if that’s what you’re wondering. They’re a lot like you actually. Unlike you and the rest of the witches who augment the best qualities of humanity, they exacerbate the absolute worst part of humanity. I’m not saying that as a form of propaganda, it’s the disgusting truth. While you the witches are born from nature, the psychics are decidedly not. While they may have human parents, the very things that make them psychic are..” Gaia shuddered. “Otherworldly...dark...hellish. While Juan Carlos may bathe himself in light, that’s only because the contents of his being are so dark. The PES are monsters in that their powers aren’t something that should naturally occur and they use their powers to wreak havoc and destruction. Don’t be mistaken. Even if they may feign it, they have no hearts, they bare no souls.”

Lillian shuddered in cold fear. Although she was certain of the PES’s brutal nature, Gaia was surely exaggerating, wasn’t she?

“Will that be all?” asked Gaia, tilting her head somewhat, causing her hair that emulated the face of the Earth to shift

“No! Wait! One more thing..in order for you to have my trust.” Lillian swallowed. There’s no way she’ll agree.. “You...you have to allow me and Zoe to contact our parents.” Lillian said. “After that, you’ll have my trust.”

Lillian was astounded at the Gaia’s utter lack of deliberation. “Okay, that can be arranged. Is tonight fine?”

Lillian was speechless for a moment before she awkwardly turned away and scratched her head. “Y-y-yes, that sounds good.” she stammered. “If you don’t let us talk to them then I won’t trust you.”

The Earth smiled. “You don’t have to worry about that my dear, I’m a woman of my word. Now I must ask you a question. It will be hard for me, but if you wish, I can make sure not to refer to you as my daughter and to not refer the other witches as your sisters. If it makes you uncomfortable, I can stop, but I wish to continue. Do you mind?”

Lillian wished to answer instantly as Gaia had, but found herself pondering. She eventually gave a sigh, signalling that she had reached a somewhat unfavorable conclusion. “I don’t really want to be singled out as “the girl who isn’t our sister” and I don’t see the harm, so I suppose you can call me your daughter.”

Lillian gave a yelp as Gaia tightly embraced her, the embodiment of the Earth almost seeming to purr as she did so. Lillian blushed red before beginning to turn blue. “Ankur..a little help.” she said quickly, running short of breath.

Ankur chuckled. “Come on Gaia, I think the rest of the girls are growing antsy.”

Gaia broke the hug, nodded, and stood up before taking a large broom from manaspace. The stick portion was black and gold while the bristles were bright yellow. Lillian gawked at the broomstick’s massiveness.

Gaia put the broomstick between her legs and jumped into the air. Unlike Lillian, Gaia effortlessly floated in the air on her broom. She slowly descended until she was at a height that Lillian could reach.

“Hop aboard. We wouldn’t want to keep the beach waiting, would we?” Gaia asked with a smile.

Lillian blew a breath before she jumped and laboriously climbed on top of the broomstick. She inched forward, holding on tightly as she did so. Lillian looked down as the ground began to rapidly shrink. Before she knew it, she had burst through the many leaves and branches of the forest and was rising over the forest. She gasped at the shrinking mass of ruffled green and looked around. Above her was a baby-blue dome without a cloud in sight. As far as her eyes could see was forest. She squinted. She had no idea what direction she was facing but in the direction opposite Gaia was facing, the edge of what she could see of the forest appeared to sway in the air like a heat-induced mirage. Lillian was filled with slight jealousy as she saw her sisters, seemingly effortlessly zipping around on their brooms. Zoe was flying in a vertical figure eight while Felicia was zipping crazily through the air, emitting a loud laugh.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Gaia asked.

Lillian looked down at the green mass that was the forest. Truth be told, her awe was beginning to turn into fear. She supposed she’d just have to trust that Gaia wouldn’t let her plummet to her death.

“Yeah.” Lillian confirmed breathlessly with a nod.

“Sorry for the delay daughters.” Gaia said. Her voice was not raised, yet all the girls heard her perfectly regardless of position due to her ability to magically amplify her voice. She was so used to using it that the ability was second-nature to her. At Gaia’s voice, the girls’ flights came to halts as they turned towards their mother. “We’re going to head to the beach now. This will be your first flight test. It won’t be graded of course. Just make it to the beach and I will see how well each of you fly. You may begin.”

Gaia created an arrow made out of pink light that pointed in the direction of the beach. The witches began flying in the direction with varying speeds. Lillian looked below, taking note of how smoothly a lot of her fellow witches flew.

“You might want to hold on to me.” Gaia suggested with a smile.

Lillian nodded. “Okay.” she said. Gaia waited into Lillian scooted forward. The teenager tightly wrapped her arms around Gaia, her fingers locking together at Gaia’s stomach. Gaia smiled warmly at the closeness as her and Lillian began to fly forward. The witch looked around, seeing the rest of the witches flying. Haoi Mi wasn’t too far from the two, slowly shaking her head as she flew with a smile. Isabella laughed excitedly as she zoomed through the air, standing on her broomstick as if she was grinding on a rail. Amalija was the farthest behind, flying slowly, yet confidently towards her destination. In stark contrast, Felicia was the farthest ahead, speeding through the air like a rocket as she shouted in satisfaction. Poor Kajsa hung on to the broom for dear life.

Lillian looked backwards and smiled at the waving Zoe as she held tightly onto Gaia. The young witch feared that her hat would fly off as she felt a strong gust of wind from behind her. She was afraid Gaia would fall, but the witch kept flying steadily. The other witches were not so lucky however. Lillian observed her sisters being knocked around by the powerful wind. Lillian gasped as she saw a giant gray bird with giant wings rise from the forest. It only sporadically flapped its wings as it slowly rose. It had a large, yellow beak and comparatively tiny eyes.

That must be Ankur… Lillian thought. Without the wind, I’m pretty sure he’d have trouble staying in the air.

Chapter Twenty-Two: Warm HeartsEdit

The afternoon sun hotly kissed the witches’ skin. Gaia sat with a smile as she sat on a large green blanket, hugging her knees. She wore a two-piece green swimsuit. Gaia’s swimsuit was more modest than the typical bikini, with a top that was essentially a water-proof sports bra (that revealed a moderate amount of cleavage), and a fairly large, high-waisted bikini bottom. Despite this, her daughters still weren’t used to seeing so much skin from Gaia. Ankur was next to Gaia, lying on his stomach. Ankur wore his usual green and gold skirt like garment. Gaia put a hand on Ankur's back.

“How I adore the ocean.” Gaia sighed.

“I know you do, milady.” Ankur confirmed with a smile.

Gaia rolled her eyes with a smile and sighed in irritation. “Oh Ankur, stop with the formalities.”

Ankur smirked, gazing at the water. “As you wish, Gaia.”

Gaia smirked as well as she moved her hand to the tanned man’s neck and began to firmly move her slender fingers around, massaging him. He let out a relieved moan. “That’s more like it, my dear Ankur.” Gaia cleared her throat before tentatively leaning closer to the familiar’s small right ear. “How would you like it if we...became even more..” Gaia cleared her throat again “..informal in my throne room tonight?”

“I think I’d like that very much.” replied Ankur. After Gaia removed her hand, Ankur soon began to fidget uncomfortably, looking longingly at the cool, shimmering blue waters of Lake Precious.

“What is it, Ankur?” asked Gaia, frowning.

Ankur looked up at Gaia and smiled sheepishly. “Well, it’s just that some of the girls are swimming and water can be very dangerous. I just think it’d be safer if I swam in the lake. You know, to patrol.”

Gaia smiled as she rolled her eyes again. “I know that you love swimming Ankur. Go ahead, it’s fine. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Much appreciated, Gaia!” said Ankur as he rose. He ran to the water, leapt twenty feet into the air, then dove into the water.

Bisera smiled as she sat in the sand and observed Xaviera in the distance. Although the young witch was adamant about swimming in the nude, Bisera was eventually able to convince her to wear a one-piece. Xaviera laughed when she breached the water. The witches were impressed at the girl’s swimming prowess. She looked as if she belonged in the water.

Xaviera swam with the fish that inhabited the lake. She always enjoyed swimming as a pastime before a taxing day of hunting. Although the salty lake was different from the rivers she was accustomed to, she enjoyed herself. It helped that the waters weren’t infested with piranhas. Bisera rested in the sand because she was in the water too long. After twenty minutes of being in the water, Bisera found it hard to breath and felt a painful stinging throughout her body. Once she left the water and was doused with a water spell courtesy of Zoe. She assumed another effect of being part-plant was a hypersensitivity to salt. Although she liked swimming, she didn’t let this new inconvenience get to her. She wanted to stay positive, for she knew there were more things to be happy about than sad about. For example, her current reasoning for staying optimistic was the fact that she was still alive after her brutal encounter with the PES the other day. She quickly stopped thinking about the PES, for she knew she’d surely become distraught if she continued to do so. Besides, Bisera reasoned that she could always swim in fresh water.

The witch furrowed her eyebrows. Speaking of which, I wonder why the water is salty if this is a lake...Bisera shrugged as she rolled over, letting the sun’s rays hit her stomach.

Once all the witches had made it to the beach, Gaia had showed the witches how to alter their uniforms into any form they saw fit. Afisa had discovered the method when she made her skirt shorter so she helped with demonstrations. To change the shape of their uniforms, the girls would touch their buckles (due to said buckles being in front of their jarks) and close their eyes, focusing on the mana-filled fibers of their uniforms. They would then think about the form they wanted their uniform to take and before they knew it, it would be changed. All the girls did this, giving themselves unique, black swimsuits.

Bisera wore a simple two-piece swimsuit made of a thin, somewhat transparent, silky material. The teen did not do this to be provocative, she simply did this to better absorb the sun’s rays, thus aiding her in her photosynthesis. The girl sighed with a smile as she put her hand on her filling stomach.

Felicia stood in the water, frowning dismally as she looked at Bisera from a distance. The sensitive girl nearly passed out when Bisera began having trouble breathing due to being in the water too long. Lillian only became more upset once she found out Bisera was simply going to stay out of the water. “I feel so bad for her.” she revealed quietly. She wore a frilly two-piece swimsuit. The thought of being even mildly revealing caused the girl to go light headed with embarrassment so the girl opted to wear a tank-top like upper piece.

“You shouldn’t.” replied Amalija, shaking her head. “She looks perfectly fine. There’s no need to let her inconvenience eat at your soul. If you still feel badly a bit later, you can join me in prayer for her.” said Amalija. Like her sister, the holy witch had changed into more modest swimwear. Amalija wore a one-piece that revealed none of her cleavage in addition to having wide shoulder straps. The girl found herself impressed at her ability to morph her bifocal glasses into goggles.

Felicia nodded. Kajsa appeared to gulp as he looked at his companion. He longed to go to her yet there was no way to get the feline into the lake short of throwing the poor creature in.

Despite the coolness of the water, Amalija couldn’t help but squirm and grow hot. This was due to the fact that she was looking at Isabella, who, in stark contrast to her, was very skimpily dressed.

Isabella sighed as she rolled over, sunbathing while wearing black shades. The green-haired witch wore what could be succinctly described as a microkini. In more elaborate terms, for a top, Isabella wore two small triangular pieces of black fabric that just barely covered her mammilla, the two pieces of fabric being connected by thin pieces of string to each other, to her back, and to the back of her neck. The tininess of the top revealed a significant portion her large bust. The miniscule of her top also revealed her defined abdominal muscles. Her bottom wasn’t much bigger. The backside was only a small piece of cloth, revealing almost all of her rear and the front side didn’t expose anything incriminating, yet it was still very thin.

“Is this your first time sunbathing, being from the coldest village on Earth and all?” asked Isabella, turning her head towards her fellow witch.

Although Afisa was also sunbathing, she found herself taking a far less radical approach than Isabella. Afisa wore a rubbery trikini that formed the general shape of the letter ‘z’, with a shoulder strap on her left shoulder. The chest portion was essentially, a tube-top, much like what Zoe was wearing. “Psh, no.” answered Afisa. “Just because others think it’s cold doesn't mean that I do. I made my own bikini and when no one’s around, I wear it and plank on the ground, or snow if need be.”

Isabella raised her eyebrows in admiration. “Whoa girl, you’re pretty hardcore.” Isabella then turned back to Amalija and smirked. “Why are you shaking Leej?” she called out.

“O-oh, no reason..” she called back.

“Are you sure?” she asked. “Oh, it’s this bad boy isn’t it?” she asked, tugging on her straps. “It’s a sign of lust or whatever, right?” she asked.

Amalija shook her head. “No, there’s nothing inherently wrong or...s-s-s-s-s-s-exual about the human body. If that’s what you feel comfortable with wearing, then by all means-”

Isabella raised a devious eyebrow. “Or maybe it makes you lustful, you weird girl you. Maybe you want to try it on yourself.” Isabella teased, standing up. She began to pretend that she was fidgeting with her bikini straps in an attempt to undo them. “No need to worry, Izzy gotcha’ covered.”

Amalija’s face was red as a beet as she quickly turned to Felicia who was sweating profusely. “How about we have that swimming race we came in the water to do? That sounds good right about now. Race to Xaviera?” Amalija asked quickly.

“Good plan.” Felicia said curtly with a nod before going under the water and kicking rapidly, prompting Amalija to dive under.

Isabella gave a hoot, garnering an annoyed slap to the head from Afisa. “Stop torturing them. You know they’re sensitive.”

“That’s what makes it so funny!” Isabella roared. “Live a little!”

Afisa’s spectacled caiman turned to the green-haired witch, sporting her perpetual grin. Isabella and Afisa heard a young, female voice in their heads. “I agree..that was quite childish.”

Isabella’s eyebrows shot up before she turned towards another voice in her head: her king cobra. Its voice was also young and female, though it exaggerated its ‘s’s and z’s as hisses. “Izzzzy’sss right, you’ll die young if you don’t sssssmile. Thossse two aren’t ssssacred, they can be the butt of a joke if need be.” the snake argued, periodically flicking its tongue. Afisa looked at the snake in shock

“The fuck!? Does anyone else have a familiar that can talk!?” Isabella exclaimed. Kajsa simply smiled at her from afar.

Helene laughed loudly, twirling around, thus causing her frilly, skirt-like two-piece swimsuit to expand. “Isn’t it marvelous Haoi Mi!? I just love bikinis because they make it so everyone can see so much more of me! Look at how much more of my lovely caramel skin is shown in addition to more of my beautiful black hair!” Helene stated, raising her arms thus revealing her small tufts of unshaven armpit hair. “Why, I’d wager you can see seventy-five-percent more of my beautiful body!” Helene laughed loudly.

Haoi Mi nodded, collecting sand. “That’s great but I’d like to know I could have the honor of burying you in the sand.” she smiled. Her swimsuit was fashioned in the likeness of an upside-down eighth note, with the large “dots” that served as her top being connected by thin straps.

Helene recoiled as if punched. “Bury me?! Did you not just hear me eloquently explain how I love my outfit because you can see more of me!?”

Haoi Mi puffed out her cheeks and played with her hands. “Well, I did but it’s for the art. Think about how great a painting could be made from a head poking out of the sand. Now think about the song I could write about it.”

Helene sighed. “You have a point, but still...my body…”

“Ooh! Hiding the rest of your body will put emphasis on your oh so lovely face!” Haoi Mi revealed with a toothy smile, imitating Helene when she said “oh so lovely”.

Helene immediately fell to the ground, facing the sky. “Bury me.” she commanded curtly.

Lillian and Zoe were lounging on the beach, sitting next to each other. Zoe were a tad-bit-small-in-the-back bikini bottom with a heart on the upper backside, and a vertical golden buckle on the left side of the front side. For the upper section, she wore a strapless tube top. Lillian thought about how she’d never be able to pull off something like that while Zoe did so effortlessly. The British witch wore a much less revealing swimsuit, with large bottoms that looked like tight-fitting shorts with puffy ruffles at the ends of the legs, a small, short-sleeved top, and a black, beanie-like swim cap with a golden flower on it. The cap was more for show since a lot of Lillian’s reddish-brown curly hair spilled out.

“...so what you’re basically trying to tell me is that you and Gaia are cool now?” asked Zoe, her voice laced with scepticism.

“Well...yeah, kind of. We’re not, like, cool cool, but I don’t think I need to give her much crap anymore..and I don’t think you should either.” Lillian awkwardly explained.

Zoe leaned forward. “Is there a reason I should?”

Lillian smiled. “It’s a surprise. You’ll find out later.”

Zoe threw up her hands. “I guess I’ll just have to trust you. She didn’t get you, did she?”

Lillian picked up her grimoire and began to flip through it. “Chronic prep school drop-out’s honor.”

Zoe frowned. “That’s not very honorable, is it?”

Lillian turned to her, smiling. “It’s not. Fine,” she held up her left pinky. “Liverpudlian’s honor.”

“Is that even a high honor?”

“I don’t think so, but it was the only thing I could think of from the top of my head.”

Zoe rolled her eyes with a smile as she locked pinkies with Lillian. “I guess top-of-head declarations of honor are the best I’m going to get.”

Lillian nodded with a smile. “Sure is.” she said, looking through her book. She vaguely wondered how complicated a minor beauty potion would be.

“Ugh, we get to go to the beach and you’re reading a textbook?”

“I thought you were the type of person to read a book at the beach as well.”

“Oh,” said Zoe, caught off guard. “Well..I am, but I also go in the water.”

“I’ll go later, just give me a second.”

“I still can’t believe you’re honestly calling a kind-of-truce with Gaia. It’s almost like we’re in a story by a crappy writer who hastily made you make peace with Gaia to further the plot.” Zoe mused.

Lillian raised her eyebrows before reading. “That’s a strange thought, but an entertaining one. Let’s see, if God is an author...I bet she’s some middle-aged woman who diligently types out the story every day from 8-12 at a coffee shop while sipping, of course, coffee.” said Lillian.

Zoe stroked her chin deviously. “I dunno’. I find it much a much more interesting thought if our hypothetical author is an otaku neckbeard loser who lives with his mother and is too lazy to write the story regularly.”

Lillian gave a disgusted frown. “Oh god, I hope not. Then he’s a pervert who revels in describing our swimming wear.”

Zoe nodded. “True, true.”

Lillian spent three more minutes reading the grimoire before she rose up with a pained yell. She grabbed frantically at her rump, for that’s where she felt the pinch when she caught hold of a large, crimson crab.

Lillian closed her eyes tightly as she pulled the crab to remove it. “Ow..ow..ow...OW!” she yelled as she pried the crab off, leaving her rear in more pain. She chucked the crab away, further down the beach before rising. “Ow, me bum…” she whispered. “Well, if that’s not a sign, then I don’t know what bloody is. Let’s go Zoe!” said Lillian as she put her grimoire in manaspace. She then began to jog to the water with Zoe following closely behind. “So what should we do?” asked Lillian, beginning to shiver as she entered the cold water.

“The best thing to do.” said Zoe before suddenly splashing Lillian with water. “Water war!” she cried. “That’s for abandoning me today to talk to Gaia, twice!

Lillian gave a joyful scream, turning her head away. Her smile quickly faded. “Wait a second, this is salty, Zoe.” realized Lillian.

“Too bad!” cried Zoe before splashing her again. The two began to laugh as they got into a splash fest. They halted at the sound of rushing water. Xaviera was laughing giddily as she swam in a giant wave that she manifested.

“Oh bloody hell, not again…” moaned Lillian.

“No, it’s cool Lillian! I think I can apply my flight training to here!” said Zoe excitedly as she took out a broom and hopped on it, beginning to successfully ascend the wave. “See Lillian!? It floats!”

Lillian’s eyes widened in fear. “Wait, but Zoe, I don’t know how to use the broo-!” Lillian began to cry before the large wave crashed into her.

..

Carmelo took a deep breath as he stood fearlessly on top of the narrow beam. Even though Master Juan had mandated since day one that the PES were to report to their dorms after dinner, Carmelo didn’t want to deal with the hussle-and-bussle the walk to the rooms, he didn’t want to deal with his loud and rambunctious brothers-in-arms such as Zack and Akmal, but most importantly, he did not want to deal with Joshua. So the psychic snuck away from the group in search for what he felt he craved most: solitude.

Carmelo had no secret route that would allow him to be totally alone with his thoughts and music, but he’d be damned if he didn’t try to find one. So he made it to the courtyard, and using his psychokinesis, he was able to leap in the air and scale the stone walls like a human spider. Eventually, Carmelo had ascended high enough to find a mass of beams, the highest which he was standing all. The boy had no idea what was being constructed, but he could care less; he was alone and had found the perfect spot to boot. The beam was the tallest thing on the particular section of the castle. Far-off were domes, spires and laboratories but Carmelo cared not of the man made marvels. His position gave Carmelo the perfect view of the giant, bright full moon. He could also see the wispy sea of gray-blue clouds that the castle floated in. Due to the fact that the clouds zoomed, Carmelo wondered how fast the castle was moving. He directed his thoughts back to the moon as he gazed at the magnificent sight.

You know, even though I still can’t see that many stars, back home I never saw something so beautiful, so natural. When I look at the moon right now, I know that I can be as free as I want to be. Carmelo gave a bitter chuckle. No matter where I was back on the ground, no matter if someone told me that things would be different or better no matter if I told my dumbass that, I could never really see the stars. I would always be in some city and the sky would be a weird orange-brown at night. I guess that means I was always trapped, that every time I would try to run I’d find myself in the same predicament. I couldn’t escape my life, my destiny and that finally led to me bummin’ around. Carmelo took another breath. It was windy and his brown hair fluttered in the wind. Despite the chilliness, he didn’t zip up his denim jacket, not wanting to risk compromising his delicate balance. Here though, things are different. This..this is a new life, yeah, I’m sure of it. Bein’ a soldier isn’t exactly what I told the teacher I wanted to be when I grew up in preschool but it sure as hell beats doin’ nothing in Cleveland. This is a new world where I’m free to be what I want to be, who I want to be. I ain’t a slave to the past and this perfect moon proves it. Carmelo sighed. Yet I’m still scared. I’m up here, hidin’ from my roommate like a bitch. I still don’t talk to anyone, keep my goddamn guard up. I still act this way, I put on this...no..I gotta’ act this way.This is who I am now. I can change but I can’t get crazy now. I need to stay actin’ like this so I…

The nicotine and sugar dependent teen took a cigarette out of his pocket, ignited a small flame on his finger and ignited the stick, inhaling the sweet smoke before exhaling through his nose like a nice-haired dragon. Maybe I need somethin’ new to smoke. I ain’t talkin’ weed or that pussy-ass e-cigarette shit. Nicotine still alright but maybe I can smoke something bigger, better...maybe I can smoke cigars too! Yeah, that’s it, I got it! Everybody smokes cigarettes but if I wanna’ be The Big Boss I gotta’ smoke something strong. The teen nodded. Maybe I can ask Master Juan to make a stop at Cuba.

Carmelo went stiff at the sounds of light footsteps on the far end of the metal beam. He began to sweat. Who the hell can that be? Is it Master Juan...? Is it Kola…? ...or is it…?

Carmelo could practically hear the smile in his voice. “Hello Carmelo.” he said, emphasizing the two o’s.

Joshua... Carmelo turned and frowned at the approaching Joshua. “This beam is pretty small, ya’ know…

Joshua chuckled. “Oh? You’re in a pretty precarious position yourself.

Carmelo was then suddenly conscious of how unstable his stance was. It was all he could muster to not lose his balance and fearfully flail around like a moron in front of Joshua. “Just worry bout’ yourself.” Carmelo growled.

“No need to worry about me. I have excellent balance.” Joshua smiled.

Carmelo looked at the lanky boy’s legs, how sure each step was, how each foot went in front of the other when walking, how his hips swayed back and forth rhythmically.

“Yeah, you do. Like a cat or somethin’..” Carmelo observed.

Joshua chuckled once he was standing three feet away from Carmelo. “You’re the second person in twenty-four hours who has likened me to a cat.”

“Well you are like a cat. You even smile all the time like a cat too.” Carmelo said in irritation.

“Don’t be preposterous Carmelo. I too can frown.” Joshua tilted his head and leaned towards Carmelo while wearing an exaggerated puppy-dog pout. “See?”

“...”

“Carmelo, I’m sorry if I upset you earlier.” Joshua said, looking Carmelo in the eye.

“...”

“Look, I understand how what I did was wrong.”

“...”

Joshua threw up his hands in irritation. “And now he’s ignoring me, again.”

Carmelo raised his eyebrows. He hadn’t seen anyone other than Gojo cause Joshua such annoyance. The teenage boy remained silent.

Joshua sighed. “Of course, I climb this treacherous route to apologize for my mistake and you won’t even give me the courtesy of verbally declining my apology, great.”

Carmelo continued to be surprised at this alien side of Joshua. He was beginning to feel guilty. “How did you know I was up here?” Carmelo asked, folding his arms.

“I didn’t,” began Joshua. “You weren’t in our room, and I knew you were at dinner. When I was in our room, pondering as to where you could be, I recalled hearing footsteps dart in the opposite direction when we were all walking. So I went to where I heard the footsteps and went in the direction they were headed until I made it outside. I then firmly put on my thinking cap: if I wanted to be alone, where would I go. I knew you knew the castle about as well as I would, thus eliminating the need to track down some secret passage. With a desperate craving for solitude, and no great knowledge of an area, I knew the only way to go was up, so here I am.” Joshua explained.

Carmelo turned towards the moon and scratched his head. “...I guess you’re a real super detective, ain’t ya’. You should open an agency or somethin’.”

Joshua smirked. “I try.”

Carmelo sighed before taking out another cigarette, lighting it, and putting it in his mouth. Another reason I should try cigars is because they last so much longer. “Look, Joshua...it blows that you came all they way out here, but…” Carmelo shook his head, frowning in annoyance. “Readin’ my mind, ain’t something that I can just forgive. I only think them things for a reason.”

Joshua smiled sadly and nodded. “Yes, I know now that it was inconsiderate of me. It’s just that..I guess I didn’t really understand that it was unacceptable.”

Carmelo growled. “Smart cat like you don’t know that people don’t like others readin’ their fuckin’ thoughts without they permission?”

Joshua frowned and put his hands in his pockets as he looked down. “Yes, I know it sounds absolutely preposterous. You have every reason to be irked. It’s just that...I guess I’m not that good with people’s feelings in this matter.”

Carmelo raised an eyebrow. “Whaddya mean?”

Joshua tilted his head up to look at the night sky. “Well, you have to understand that my telepathic perception has always happened sporadically. While lately it’s been occurring more frequently, I genuinely only had had the ability to read minds two, maybe three times per day, and only for a short period. If I was sleep, then I’d just lose one of my “turns”. My point is that it was exceptionally rare when I’d get to read a stranger’s thoughts, and if I was in a public place, they’d be all jumbled and I’d get a nasty headache. I suppose I may have learned to bite my tongue around my family when hearing their thoughts, but that’s only because they made it exceptionally clear that they didn’t trust anyone else with hearing them. I have had a few incidents in school due to my ability, but those were few and far between and I assumed there was only a problem because I didn’t know the other children too well. The only person whose mind I frequently read were Zoe’s and she was perfectly fine with me peeking into her thoughts.”

A chick who’s perfectly find with her dude listening in on her intimate secrets? This Zoe keeps sounding too good to be true more and more. Wonder what factory she was cooked up in.

“I’ve never really had that many friends, so I don’t have much experience with how other people that are closer than acquaintances deal with my ability.”

Carmelo blinked it shock. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold the phone. You? You don’t got a lotta’ friends?”

Joshua smirked. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m friendly enough, I guess people just don’t care for quiet bookworms. Most of my friends are from the internet.” he explained.

Carmelo turned away. “Oh..” I...I never woulda’ guessed.

oshua shrugged with a smile. “It’s fine, I don’t really mind. However, I do wish to be friends with you Carmelo, and that’s why I took the time to come here and apologize. I don’t want our relationship to deteriorate over something trivial. I promise that I’ll try not to read your thoughts.”

Carmelo turned away and frowned. “Why me though? Is it because I’m your roommate? Why don’t you just be friends with Zack, Akmal or Afwerki. Why try to be friends with a loner like me? If you into bein’ friends with people who don’t want friends, go to Andy. For real, bein’ friends with me is like tryin’ to be cool with Gojo or Sebastion.”

Joshua shook his head, hand on his hip. “Well, Zack, Akmal, and Afwerki are so friendly that I’m really already their friend. You should try having a conversation sometime, they’re quite nice people and if you paid attention, you’d notice that even if it’s in its very early stages, Andy is beginning to open up to people besides Manic. Even if he wasn’t, I think you’re the person on the team who needs a friend the most.”

Carmelo frowned. “The fuck’s that s’posed to mean?” Carmelo asked with a frown.

“I didn’t mean to offend you Carmelo. It’s just that it’s the way you carry yourself. Sure, you try to eat alone and act surly, but deep in your eyes I see a sadness, a fear. It’s almost as if you find yourself trapped, like you act the way you do because you believe you have to. This is no doubt a hectic time in your life, with us being in a war and all, and you shouldn’t spend this time feeling alone and isolated.”

“...for someone who says they ain’t got a lotta’ friends, yo’ ass sure know how to read people…”

Joshua chuckled. “Thanks. I honestly don’t know how I obtained that ability, given the circumstances. I guess it’s a gift, maybe it’s another psychic ability.”

“Anyway, don’t try to make me into something that I’m not. I like the way I am. Nothing you can do to change that.” Ugh…

“Maybe so, but you need companionship. Humans aren’t solitary creatures, you’ll surely go insane if you feel as if you have absolutely no one to turn to.” Joshua smiled. “I’m not going to stand here and let the first person I’ve met on this journey go crazy.”

Carmelo sighed. “If you think everybody need a friend so much, why ain’t you tryin’ to be all buddy-buddy with Sebastion and Gojo.”

Joshua chuckled nervously. “Because even though we all need companionship, some people just won’t accept it for a variety of reasons. In their case, it’s because they think they’re superior to everyone else. Even though you and Gojo may act a bit similar, I know you’re nothing like him, you’re kinder, warmer. You just might have one of the biggest hearts here, in addition to the coolest head.

Carmelo shook his head. No, you’re absolutely wrong. You’re giving me way too much credit. Carmelo opened his mouth to protest.

Joshua held up a hand, silencing Carmelo. “How do I know this, you ask? First off, I know how angry you became at the prospect of Myung-Dai killing me. Second off, from the very moment I met you on that Cleveland sidewalk, even as you were barking at me to “watch it”, I saw your eyes light up, like you were glad to see me even though you were surrounded by people. IT was as if you were a man lost at sea, found at last.”

Carmelo cleared his throat. “Look..Joshua I...the thing I said earlier, in my head….” Carmelo began to sweat from nervousness. He ran his hand through his hair, flustered as his heart began racing. “We’re in a goddamn war, Joshua! Is this really the best time to be tryin’ to make friends? Even in normal life, people leave all the time. They’ll leave even faster in war. You’ll probably croak, and even if you don’t and you make it to the end of this thing, you’ll go back home and forget about my ass.”

Joshua smirked. “So, you’re afraid that I’ll abandon you?”

Carmelo swallowed. He looked at Joshua’s face, his smile boldly unwavering. The wind also threw his hair every which way, but he felt the effect was more magnificent with Joshua’s hair. “Yes..” Carmelo finally said, mouth dry.

“I’m not the type of person to forget others, Carmelo. So if we do make it out in one piece, I’ll make sure that we stay in touch. Now, as to dying. That’s a more tricky thing, but since you’re so worried about me leaving, I promise that I won’t be killed. I won’t abandon you since that’s nothing a good friend would do.”

Carmelo raised his eyebrows. “You sure? You can promise something like that?”

“Sure I can, psychic’s honor.”he said, raising his hand. Carmelo sighed. “Then I guess...then I guess I don’t have to be so on edge. I won’t shut you out. Maybe one day I’ll...I’ll tell you everything ‘bout me, just promise that you won’t read my thoughts again.”

Joshua nodded. “Can do Carmelo.” he smiled as he looked at the moon. “Living as normal children, now thrust into the roles of soldiers in a titanic battle that will determine the fate of mankind; in essence, we are between worlds. This could be a terrifying journey where we’re plucked totally out of our element, or a wonderful adventure where we discover this is what we’ve wanted our entire lives. Either way, it’s better to travel between worlds with a partner.”

Carmelo blankly nodded.

“So, are we cool?” asked Joshua.

Carmelo turned to Joshua. After a moment, he gave a half smirk as he held out his fist. He brought it down while Joshua brought his up, then they did the opposite before moving their fists forward for a standard fist-bump. “We cool.”

“Splendid. I promise I won’t die on you.”

Carmelo smirked. “Mhm.” His eyes widened once Joshua began to teeter-back on forth on the rail, losing his balance. With a yell, Joshua fell off the rail, beginning to plummet to the ground.

“Oh shit! Joshua!” Carmelo screamed in anguish. He would try to fly but he’d doubt he’d be able to effectively with the wind. He leaned forward, his eyelids lowering once he saw Joshua safely floating through the air, facing the sky with his hands under his head. Despite the wind, Joshua floated in place.

The psychic sported a toothy grin. “Kidding! Kidding. Did you really think I’d break my promise that quickly you silly goose?”

“Oh fuck you!” Carmelo cried.

“Are you going to fly down?”

“Too windy, I’ll take my chances the way I came, asshole.” said Carmelo as he began to cautiously walk across the beam, flipping Joshua off.

“Oh, and I’m sure you’ll find a pleasant surprise under our door.” said Joshua.

“Whatever.”

Joshua’s smile softened as his head grew light, accidentally hearing a thought of Carmelo’s.

Thank you, pal.

Floating a ways away was a man draped in a black cloak. The figure tightened its cloak as the wind caused it to flutter. As the figure shivered, it smirked at the two friends.

Chapter Twenty-Three: Looming MeleeEdit

Joshua found himself sweating despite the cool darkness of room D-12. The teenager's white bedsheets were drenched in sweat as his eyes darted behind his closed eyelids. His teeth were clenched, despite how seemingly unsettling the boy found his dream, he didn't yell or whimper.

Stranger yet was the fact that, for the most part, Joshua's dreams were not particularly scary at all.

Joshua first saw the smiling face of Myung-Dae, cloaked in an almost blinding whiteness. As soon as Joshua realized what he was looking at, his vision flashed purple.

He then found himself high up above the ground. The psychic's face was touched by something cool, soft and flat. The smell of maple filled his nose. To his right, he saw Akmal yawning, and to his left, he saw Eziz frowning at Akmal. Joshua's nose itched but he could not scratch it, his gaze was now locked between the spaced of what he presumed were trees to the grass below. In the dream, Joshua turned his head and saw a research facility that was on a cliff. He tensed once he heard shrill laughter. Once the psyhic involuntarily turned his head, he was greeted by four witches flying on broomsticks.

Next thing he knew, there was another flash of purple and Joshua was on the ground, his pose similiar to genuflection. Sweat rolled down his face as he faced a blond haired witch. She was snarling at him like a feral animal. Her wand was pointed threateningly at the boy

"Freeze in hell! Icera!" she growled before a large icicle zipped towards the psychic.

Joshua was frozen in place, unable to avoid the attack that would surely pierce through his body. He couldn't even close his eyes to make the pain easier.

His vision became purple a final time before the color lingering, the color slowly darkening to black. Joshua's heart skipped as he heard a familiar, warm voice that had lulled him countless times. His vision was completely, opressively black yet he didn't fret due to the prescence of the voice.

"Joshua, we need to talk." said the voice. It seemed colder than he remembered, stricter. Joshua could practically feel the voice's hot breath on his face, hear its owner's heartbeat, see her face inches from his. Zoe..

The blond psychic blinked startedly. Oh, that darkness must have just been the room. But..it seemed..different somehow...

Joshua sat up quickly and felt blindly through the darkness. He was silent for he didn't want to wake up Carmelo, yet if his girlfriend was indeed in the room, he couldn't help but feel compelled to call out to her.

"Zoe?" called Joshua quietly.

He shrank as he heard a male groan above him. The bed creaked, signifying that someone had turned on their side. "Joshua? Everything cool?" asked Carmelo.

Joshua gritted his teeth. If Zoe really was in the room, he thought she'd be chuckling right now. "Yes, everything's fine."

"For real? With as much tossin' that you did, I thought somebody climbed in and was trying to steal your spot."

"It's nothing Carmelo, honestly."

Carmelo sighed. So you make me spill my guts out but..fine, I guess I gotta' trust 'em. "Fine whatever you say." Wait, a minute ago, didn't he say "Zoe?" Ohhh, so that's what it was. "Uh, hey Joshua. Just remember to tell one of the workers if you need a new sheet or somethin'..."

But Joshua was already lost in his thoughts. He found it quite queer that he was not able to control his dreams. Lucid dreams were the hallmark of Joshua's slumber ever since he was a tot. It was evident that something was different, the question was now a matter of "what".

Joshua reached out his hand and closed his eyes. He simply held his hand out towards the center of the room for a moment before opening his eyes. What am I doing? Trying to somehow feel Zoe's prescence even though she's far away. That's..preposterous..thought the person with the ability to move objects with his mind,  read the thoughts of others, fly, create illusions, and control wind. ..or is it..?

...

Xaviera held her wooden bowl up to the face, the only thing of the girl's head that was seen being her long hair that seemed to give even vantablack a run for its money.

Amalija turned away from her youngest sister that was noisily slurping up the last morsels of her porridge from her bowl. Bisera smiled nervously while Isabella couldn't help but chuckle. 

Once the wild girl was done, she burped loudly, held up her bowl high, and faced Gaia. "More please momma."

Gaia smiled warmly. "In but a moment, my dear daughter." Gaia rose, Ankur perched on her left shoulder as a red-winged blackbird. "Right now we must discuss our plan of attack against Juan Carlos." she said grimly. As the witch stood up, she blocked the streak of light that was illuminated the long rectangular table. Due to this, the witch's faces were in shadow due to their large-brimmed hats.

"And in the meantime," Bisera said quietly as she scooted her wooden chair closer to Xaviera and gently grabbed a handful of the bottom of her long black hair. "We can work on getting this food out of your hair. The longer your hair, the more careful you're going to have to be." she smiled as she spoke softly. She turned towards Isabella. "Isabella, could you help me out with some water spells?"

Isabella gave a toothy grin as she walked towards her two sisters. "Yeah. You gotta' be more careful with your hair. How are you gonna' snag a cute boy?"

Xaviera tilted her head in confusion. "Bo-i?" she asked, sounding out the alien word.

Isabella blinked. "Yeah, boy. Like Ankur? You know, has a d-"

"Discussion for another time." interuppted Bisera, her eye twitching.

As usual, Gaia's voice was loud without needing to yell. Now however, her voice seemed a bit more cold and methodical.

"Juan Carlos has already destroyed one of my forests, though thanks to Amalija and Afisa, I have successfully birthed another one in its place. Its obvious that Juan wishes to crush us by destroying our foundations and roofs, so we should have no qualms about doing the same thing to him and his monsters. Juan Carlos is a like a pitiful toddler, he will not function without his toys. He shuns mother nature, stating that the tools of man are more powerful. We'll prove him wrong. Without his machines and gadgets, Juan Carlos and his minions will become a much more manageable threat. Ankur has done some scouting and has located a research base of his that's located on the coast of Brazil. Through his recon, we have assessed that it may be one of his, if not his main research facility. It would be a great advantage to destroy it."

Gaia folded her arms. The girls sat uncomfortably in the pregnant silence. "The only problem is that if it is the main base, that piteous fop Juan Carlos and The PES will see us from many, many miles away. That's why we need a decoy to draw his attention away from his base in Brazil. The candidate is one of his offshore mining facilities near Malta since it's far enough away that if he catches wind that it's an elaborate ploy, he won't have enough time to move his firepower back to Brazil before we obliterate the base."

"I volunteer to go, mother." said Afisa with determination as she rose.

Gaia blinked with concern at her daughter's eagerness. Nevertheless, with more and more experience with the PES, Afisa was proving herself one of the most able witches to combat the psychic menaces. "Very well." She hoped someone go that would keep her daughter in check, she didn't want Afisa coming back, her mind completely glazed over with bloodlust.

"I'd also like to go. I want another chance to stick it to those PES." smirked Isabella as she stood up and punched her fist into her open palm. 

A sweat drop rolled down Gaia's face. Isabella doesn't seem like she'd be much better in that regard.

"Me want go." said Xaviera, looking blankly at Gaia.

"Oh, you do?" asked Gaia, shocked.

Xaviera nodded. "Make sure no meanie hurt sister. Me also want to see what fuss all about."

Gaia nodded and swallowed. "Okay, I think you're ready to begin facing them." She probably won't keep them in check either.

The girls looked around when they heard another voice, so soft it was that Gaia thought it was the wind at first. In reality it was the quiet Felicia, whose sleeve was in front of her mouth as she looked away from Gaia.

"Um..I would like to go as well...it seems like it could be interesting." Felicia quietly stated.

"Okay." Felicia would seem the best to keep them in place but she wants to go because it's interesting? I give up...

Lillian turned to Zoe. "Looks like Commander Gaia is in full-force today." she chatized quietly. 

"I can't believe so many of them are volunteering." said an astonished Zoe. "I mean, I know they trust Gaia, but still."

Lillian shrugged. "It makes sense for Isabella and Afisa. They have bones to pick with the PES after all. I'm just glad that I'm so bad at magic that-"

"Lillian, I'd also like you to go." said Gaia.

Lillian's face flushed as she began to stammer. "Wh-wh-what?"

"You heard me." Gaia smiled.

"But I stink at magic, Gaia. What am I going to do?"

"You'll hold up the rear, serving as a medic and an enhancer. You may not be the best at magic, but your talent with potions is unrivaled."

"What about our lesson?I can't even fly, Gaia! " Lillian argued.

"We'll have one last lesson before you girls depart. If you still don't have it, you can just use a training broom."

Zoe stood up and slammed the table. "But that's not fair!" she stopped as she felt Lillian's hand on her shoulder.

"It's fine, Zoe. I guess I can see what all the fuss is about as well. Besides, if I can help them by giving them potions, I should go."

Gaia clasped her hands together. "Excellent, we will depart in an hour."

Zoe jumped as Ankur began speaking while still a bird. "Let's see if we can fix your little voice problem as well." Zoe could pratically hear the familiar smirk. "I want The PES to hear the voices of justice."

...

Joshua walked through the ccol, early morning halls of the castle. The air was buzzing with chatter from his fellow psychics, as well as the sounds of their rumbling stomachs. Despite the noise however, the blond psychic couldn't hear anything  outside the realm of his thoughts. His spacial awareness extended as far as the fact that he instinctively knew how to successfully walk to the cafeteria and he was aware that Carmelo was far in front of him, lost in his headphones. Besides that, the world around him was a black, featureless tunnel.

Joshua rested his fist on his chin. I still can't help but be mesmerized by the fact that I had a total lack of control in my dreams. I wonder if it has something to do with my growinng psychic powers. It's certainly a possibility. Those dreams certainly felt..unique. How would this tie into my powers as a psychic, though? What powers would be related to dreams? Is it possible that..

Joshua was jolted out of his thoughts by an old, firm voice speaking. "How are you feeling this morning, Joshua?"

The psychic quickly turned to his right, where the voice had originated. "Oh, Master Juan! I'm feeling well, thank you."

The elderly psychic gave a slightly teasing smile as he held his hands behind his back while he walked alongside his student. His elevator boots, which allowed him to be significantly taller than the long-legged Joshua, were red today. If Joshua were paying attention, he would have been able to hear the boots "clomp" down the hall from pratically a mile today. He wore what appeared to be a bright red Napoleon military coat, with horizontal golden lines on te front, an a golden embroidery design on the back, and golden epaulettes. He wore pants that were as bright and white as snow. To complete his outfit, he wore a long, golden cape with his logo on the center of the cape in black. 

Despite his embarassment at being caught off guard, Joshua couldn't help but gawk at his teacher's uniform.

"I'm concerned about how you'll fare on the battlefield if you can space out so completely." chuckled Juan.

Joshua scratched his head, hiding his embarassment. "I'm grateful for your concern, yet you don't have to worry about me, master. I wouldn't zone out on the battlefield, I was only lost in my thoughts because I know the time before breakfast is a time when I can afford to be."

Juan stroked his goatee with a smile. "Strategic, I like it. May I ask what you were thinking so thoroughly about?"

"Just my dreams."

The master psychic let out a joyous sigh. "Ah, dreams. The gateway to the inner psyche. We may only truly undersand ourselves when we dissect our dreams. It can be the gate to the past, present, and future, all at once. What did you dream of?"

"Well, for one, I dreamt of my girlfriend, Zoe." revealed Joshua.

Juan smiled, gazing at his other pupils as he continued to walk. "Don't let that bother you, boy. When you return, you'll return as a legendary hero, and heroes have the uncanny power of staying in our hearts forever. Your deeds done in the name of The Planet will no doubt make up for your absence."

Joshua nodded with a smile. "Yes, I'm sure she'll understand."

"Well, I'm off to make preperations for the day." said Juan as he began to turn to go down the next hall.

"Wait, Master Juan?"

"What is it?"

"Have you checked on Myung-Dae lately? I just have a feeling that it might be worth your while."

Juan Carlos looked towards the cieling, squinted his eyes and stroked his goatee. "No, I haven't. Duly noted."

...

Kola walked side-by-side with her father in the brightly-lit H hall of the East wing of the castle. The two were walking in silence as they approached the room where the (as far as they knew) unconcious Myung-Dae was confined. Kola didn't mind that, in her black skin-tight suit, she was in stark contras to her regally dressed father. She considered herself Juan Carlos' eyes and ears It didn't matter what she wore as long as it helped her help him.

The two approached the door, guarded by two men in white suits and lead helmets with experimental mini-railguns strapped across their backs.

Juan Carlos waved his hand in dismissal. "Step aside you two, Kola and I shall take it from here."

The guards saluted Juan Carlos. "Yes, Lord Carlos, sir!" they said before marching halfway down the hall.

Juan Carlos used his mind to unlock and open the heavy metal door without so much as blinking before he and Kola stepped inside. Juan psychokinetically closed the door and looked at the small huddle in the far corner of the padded room. Kola frowned and folded her arms as she looked at the North-Korean weapon that was slumped forward, his arms restrained with a straight jacket.

Kola's eyes darkened as the teenager slowly brought his head up and smiled at her.

Juan Carlos frowned. So, he really has awoken. Did Joshua actually know or was it simply a hunch?

"Hello." Myung-Dae sleepily greeted. "I knew you two would be coming." He let out a chuckle. "My, how the tides have changed."

Kola turned to Juan Carlos. "Father, may I commence interrogating him?"

Juan Carlos raised his eyebrows in surprise. Kola usually didn't ask for many things, she usually waited to be commanded. He nodded, "I don't see why not."

Kola calmly walked towards Myung-Dae before forcefully grabbing a handful of his hair and tugging him upward with it. She lowered her head so she was eye-leve-to-eye with the teenager.

"I shall not repeat myself. You only speak to answer our questions. Am I understood?" Kola asked.

In the corner of his eye, Myung-Dae saw see Juan Carlos snap, the room's padded walls and floor beginning to harden.

Myung-Dae smirked. "Ah, enjoying this little display of reveng-" the psychic was cut off as Kola swiftly slammed his head against the wall, sending streaks of pain through his skull as the psychic's vision was invaded by bright stars. 

Through his daze, Myung-Dae could hear Juan Carlos, who sounded as if he was underwater.

"Best not to tease my daughter, boy," Juan warned with a smile. "It's a case of bad cop, worse cop and she will end you if she deems it necessary."

Joy. Myung-Dai found Kola Carlos' brown nose mere inches away from his as she squatted on the ground. "Do I make myself clear?" she slowly repeated.

Myung-Dae swallowed and nodded.

Kola rose and folded her arms over her chest. "Good, now let's start simple. How many more of you are there?" she asked.

Myung-Dae tilted his head slightly "What do you mean of m-?" Myung-Dae felt Kola's cold, slender fingers begin to wrap around his neck.

"Use your big, "son of Kim Jong-Un" brain. Think, the reason my father was interested in you," Kola stated, hand still on his neck.

"None, I am the only one as of now." Myung-Dae said slowly, and clearly.

"Only one? Elaborate: why is that?" asked Kola.

"At first, it was simply because I was the only successful son. Some of the others died, others weren't as strong as me, and others simply didn't have their powers ever develop. They all greatly shamed my father, except for me."

"So North Korea just ceased development on its Psychokinetic Project?" Kola inquired, releasing her hold of the psycic's neck.

Myung-Dae shook his head. "They are ever searching for the perfect recipe to create a son who will replicate or even surpass me. They constantly check my DNA, biometrics, and brain waves in order to try and produce gifted sons."

Juan smirked, "Sounds like you want to return to your homeland for your father."

Myung-Dae shook his head. "No," he said softly.

Kola raised an eyebrow. Well that's strange, he wouldn't shut up about his father when I first met him. "I already know why you captured me, in order to protect the "confidential secrets" of the elementary school politics project that you call a government. My question is why didn't you accept my invitation to join the PES?"

"I had other obligations."

Kola tilted her head to the side. "An obligation to your insipid fool of a father pales in comparison to a chance to serve mine."

Myung-Dae growled. "Don't you dare insult my-" Myung-Dae coughed as Kola threw a punch towards his stomach. He breathed deeply with his mouth open, the air knocked out of him due to Kola's punch.

"I'm honestly baffled as to why you believed continuing to serve as Kim Jong-Un's attack dog was more worthwhile than aiding my father." stated Kola. "Care to shed some light?"

Myung-Dae chuckled, despite his pain. "Well maybe because some of us don't look up to Juan Carlos like he's a god. Consider the fact that I don't wish to abandon my father to become part of some man's personal army, full of strangers. Your war doesn't involve me."

Kola rolled her eyes. "Please, North Korea's juvenile contest with its twin sibling and America is irrevalent by itself, moreso when compared to my father's conflict. You probably haven't heard all the information due to your slumber, but the witches have struck. They-"

"Attacked Manchester with a giant beast, I'm aware." finished Myung-Dae with a somewhat annoyed tone.

Kola blinked, taken aback. She quickly regained her composure. "Yes, that is correct. My father has waged a war against the witches, a war that sees the fate of the human race hanging in the balance. It isn't like some petty border dispute, it involves the entire world, and my father is noble and selfless for taking it upon himself to lead the resistance against the ultimate dictator, the being known as Gaia. If you care so much about your precious Kim Jong-Un, then why wouldn't you have joined in our fight to prevent the enslavement and genocide of the human race?"

Myung-Dae tried to shrug. "None of our sources mentioned this "Gaia". If she turned out to be a problem and attacked my country, then I'd defend it from her."

Kola couldn't help but chuckle. "That's terribly naive of you. You think you can defeat the witches if they come? You could possibly take down three if you're really lucky. You wouldn't stand a chance."

"And you would?" Myung-Dae chuckled.

"What?" Kola asked darkly.

Myung-Dae chuckled more loudly. "You heard me. You say I'm too weak to stand up to the witches, but if I am weak, then what does that make you? How in the world do you possibly believe you can serve your father? You simply are not strong enough, and the sad part is that you don't even realize it."

Kola jerked the boy up by his long, black hair. His catlike smile unhinged the young woman.

"You were so confident at first, so sure tha you could take me down then drag me back to your father. I didn't have to break a sweat to begin taking you down, and as I did so, the mask of assuredness finally began to crack, your face melting more and more into a childish frown. Your fastest and strongest attacks meant nothing when I could anticipate every single one of them. You didn't even tell your father, did you? How you didn't even land three decent hits on me. As the-pitifully short, if we're being perfectly honest-fight went on, you became overcome with something that has never ailed you in your professional life: fear. A fear so terrible that it didn't allow you to function properly, your eyes wide as your body stopped doing what you told it to. I'm the weak one? At least they sometimes speak of your father back at home, you are, in all meanings of the word, a discrace."

Kola threw the boy against the wall and began to brutally punch his face, her teeth barred and her eyes burning with anger and hatred. She alternated between a viscious left hook and a savage right hook as she continued to batter Myung-Dae's defenseless face, his mouth slowly filling with blood.

"Kola." said Juan Carlos, arms folded.

Kola stopped herself, angry at Myung-Dae's smiling face.

Despite the burning pain that throbbed in the boy's head the boy continued to chuckle, blood dripping from his mouth as his speech was slurred due to his bruising mouth and fractured jaw. "That's right, listen to daddy. He's your one true love...oh right, there is another. After I beat you down and they threw you in a cell, they reported what you said while imprisoned. You called his name, and another. They say the ones we love are the ones whose names are on ourae breath when we call to the night. I guess you're not completely devoted to your father, he has some competion. Kola's loves: Juan, and.."

Kola punched the boy in the stomach, the pool of blood in his mouth spattering on Kola's suit as he doubled-over, gasping.

"Kola! That's enough, you'll kill the boy!" her father chatized.

Kola leaned forward and whispered into the boy's ear. "You tell a soul and I will kill you."

Myung-Dae nodded, chuckling even still.

"What's so funny?" asked Juan, frowning.

"It's just that this is exactly as I saw it."

"What is this?" asked Juan Carlos, puzzled.

"This confrontation. I saw it in my dream as a vision. It seems with my defeat I have been given clairvoyance."

"That's impossible." said Juan Carlos.

"Then explain how I knew of the development with Gaia and the witches in Manchester. I have been in solitary confinement."

Juan Carlos scratched his chin. "You do have a point, but in all my years of life, I haven't found a clairvoyant-"

"-forgive me if it seems farfetched. We're going to need a bit more concrete proof." finished Myung-Dai. "Your student, Joshua is the reason you are currently here."

Kola and Juan exchanged shocked glances.

Myung-Dae smiled. "I am beginning to see all that ever will be, though something clouds my view."

Juan regarded Myung-Dae darkly. "Can you see all that has ever been?"

Myung-Dae was silent before shaking his head. "No, but that is all right, at least when concerning my father, all that matters is tomorrow."

"Shame, seeing the past is an invaluable tool." Juan said with a shrug. "You must want to go back to your father."

"No, that is the last thing I want to do. I have shamed him with my failure. My face would simply insult him. Besides, I do not see him in my future."

"And?" asked Kola. "It's not like you really see him anyway. You mainly see your supervisors, if anyone."

Myung-Dae was silent.

"Then what do you wish to do? Myung-Dae. You are wholly devoted to your father. Without him, you're nothing," said Juan.

"That isn't true. I am devoted to him, but I will not live the rest of my life wallowing. I will serve him still. I wish to join you in your crusade against the witches in order to ensure that they do not harm The Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In the future, I saw more witches than you anticipated." Myung-Dae said, determined.

Juan laughed. "Oh, so now you wish to join me! How do I know you won't cross us?"

"I have no reason to. My sole desire is to protect my country, and since I cannot go back, I see you as my sole outlet towards doing so."

"The PES that you fought won't be happy to see you," stated Kola darkly.

"Regardless, you're still a valuable asset, but don't think there won't be more ramifications for kidnapping Kola. You understand that until I can trust you freely, you won't have nearly as many freedoms as the rest of the soldiers?"

Myung-Dae nodded. "I understand, Juan Carlos."

Juan nodded towards Kola. "Get him up." at her father's comand, Kola jerked the boy to his feet by yanking his hair upward.

"We shall escort you to the medicinal facility where they will inject a psychokinetically controlled bomb into your body. I will also see that the PES' flight goggles are outfitted with com-links. If there is any word of mutinous actions, you'll be blown to kingdom come. Am I clear?" asked Juan Carlos darkly.

Myung-Dae nodded. "Yes Juan Carlos. No objections."

"Then come with us," commanded Juan as he opened the door with a smile. He turned and smiled at Myung-Dae before walking out. "And that's Maser Juan to you, for you still have much to learn."

Kola shoved Myung-Dae forward. "And that's Lady Kola than you, for I'll be far more noble than you'll ever be."

..

Lillian walked behind her fellow witches in a single-file line as they trekked through the Amazon rainforest. As per Gaia's plan, Lillian was in the back of the line, with Afisa being first, Isabella being second, and Felecia being third. Lillian couldn't help but be nervous, the fact that Gaia felt the need to send half of the witches to the Brazillian base did nothing to assuage her fears.

The teenage witch found it sad to the point of being comical: here she was in the Amazon rainforest and all she could feel was a stifling anxiety that made it hard to breathe and made her stomach feel like it was made out of stone. The symphony orchestra of animal noises might as well have been silent for her fretful mind was far louder.

It was her first time fighting the psychics and her fellow witches, her sisters as Gaia would have them called, were depending on her. She wasn't sure if she would be able to cast spells if the need arose, she wasn't sure if her spells would be potent enough, and lastly she was afraid her comrades would hate her if she wasn't good enough.

I accepted Gaia's request so easily but now...oh, god, what if they're too strong. Everyone seemed so shook up after they fought the PES. Argh, what made me think I could help? I didn't want to feel like a waste of space, but still.. Lillian remembered several first days of school, the anxiety slowly accumulating and becoming a scourge in her chest. Heh, this feels just like school. I guess I was taken from one school and placed into another.v

Lillian gave a pitiful chuckle before stopping herself as she felt something inching along the back of her hand. She turned it to see a baby caterpillar.

"Well hello little guy, how'd you get there?" she said in a soft voice. She had stopped walking and stared at the small insect, mesmerized by its movement. Its will despite its seemingly weak and fragile existance.

"Come on Lil, we're about to take off!" called Isabella from the distance.

Lillian snapped out of her trance and waved her other hand. "Coming!" she called in response. She knelt and brushed the carterpillar off of her hand and into the dirt. "There you go." she smiled.

She sighed and took her training broom from manaspace, the magical cleaning supply floating without any external mana input. She hopped on it and began to briskly move through the air, colliding into branches and vines as she tried to catch up with the five other witches. "Here goes nothing..."

..

The ten psychic youths found themselves once again seated in the dark War Room. On the screen was a picture of one of Juan's research facilities. At the sight of it, Joshua couldn't help but jump slightly.

"I am a man of many talents, and many interests though they share one binding similiarity: they are carried out with the ultimate goal of unbound happiness for the human race. I believe this can be achieved mainly through the efforts of scientific development." began Juan.

At the mention of "unbound happiness of the human race," Andy rolled his eyes and gave a small groan of annoyance.

"I am the commander-in-chief of the fight against The Witches, and I m also your teacher, yet I also am the head of several research programs which are responsible for creating state-of-the-art technology. You are looking at a research facility now. We have sources stating that witches were sighted flying towards Reasearch Facility HALO near Malta. This is the preface for Mission 04. You are to intercept the two witches and stop them from-"

"Pardon me, master? Two witches?" interrupted Joshua.

Juan folded his arms. "Yes, two Joshua. Is there a problem?" inquired the ederly psychic.

"It's just that..I saw a similiar facility like that in...in a dream I had and I saw four witches instead of two. Furthermore, it didn't appear to be Malta." Joshua revealed, hand on his chin.

Juan blinked. "And you gathered this..from a dream."

"Don't write him off yet, Master." said a voice. The voice caused Carmelo, Afwerki, Luuk, Zack, and Joshua to jump. Out of a shadowy corner of the room, stepped Myung-Dae.

Sebastion annoyedly regarded the newcomer. "You can mask your prescence well. I just barely sensed you. Barely."

"And yet you did not do anything." Myung-Dae smiled, in turn causing Sebastion to scowl. "It is as the blond one says, Master Juan, something is up, I also saw four witches in my dream."

"Uh, Master Juan, what is he doing here?" asked Carmelo swallowing.

"Oh hell no, another loser!?" barked Gojo.

Myung-Dae chuckled before puttinhg a hand on his chest and bowing slightly. "Excuse me for foregoing introdutions. My name is Myung-Dae. I am from The Democratic People's Republic of Korea. I am your new ally."

"No you ain't!" cried Carmelo.

"I understand your apprehension, but I assure you, killing you wouldn't be in my best interest now."

Juan waved an annoyed hand. "You can bicker later. If he causes you any harm, he will be eliminated immediately. If there are more withes then we must locate them and stop them. Now the question is where..."

Joshua closed his eyes. Despie not hearing any words spoken in his dream about the witches, he seemed to remember a location and it had been on the tip of his tongue since he woke up, waiting to be-

"Brazil." Joshua suddenly, involuntarily said before blinking rapidly, baffled.

"What!?" exclaimed Juan. "I'll look into this, in the meantime, you, Eziz, Myung-Dae, and Luuk shall see yourselves to the Departure Deck. If the witches are indeed heading towards Research Facility GLORY in Brazil, it is of the utmost importance that you leave as soon as possible to stop them, for it is my main base."

Luuk rose. "Forgive me master, but I was taught that two wrongs don't make a right. It's bad enough that I must put up with Sebastion and Gojo, I refuse to work with this cretin who spent almost an entire night trying to kill half of us."

"Very well. You will go with Carmelo and Andy, and slay the witches near Malta and protect Research Facility Halo. Akmal will take your place in the other team."

Luuk nodded. "Thank you, master."

Joshua nervously swallowed at how his dream was slowly coming to fruition. He wondered what it all meant.

Akmal leapt from his seat and pumped his fist into the air. "Yeah! I get to get-er, I mean kick some which boo-tay!"

Zack chuckled and Luuk groaned.

"Now go to the Departue Deck, we have no time for dilly-dallying!" said Juan.

Carmelo looked nervously at Joshua, causing Myung-Dae to smile and turn to Carmelo.

"Don't worry, I promise not to harm him. It's evident that you care about him."

Carmelo blushed, folded his arms and turned away. "N-naw, it ain't that, it's just-"

Juan turned to his daughter who was sitting next to him. "Would you like to partake in this mission today?"

Kola was staring at the ground, lost in thought. She jerked up as her father spoke to her. "No, father. I don't feel so well, I mean..I-I just think I'm not suited to today's mission."

Juan regarded his daughter, somewhat puzzled before she shrugged. "Very well."

.

Joshua, Eziz, Myung-Dae, and Akmal walked side-by-side down the metallic Launch Hall which was bathed in a red light that pulsed on and off. The floor "clanked" as they walked.

"Are you scared?" Joshua asked somewhat nervously to Myung-Dae, fiinding it somewhat hard to be cordual to the man who almost saw to his death a week prior.

Myung-Dae shook his head. "Your witches do not frighten me. As long as I have my father in my heart, I should be fine."

Akmal punched his fist into his open hand with a smile. "All I know is that I'm rexcited to finally get to meet these witches again."

Eziz smirked. "I pray that you won't try to get their phone numbers?"

Joshua turned to Akmal. "Say, you learned how to fly?"

Akmal smirked and scratched the back of his head. "I think I got it."

A man's voice buzzed in Joshua's head. This is mission control. We will be assisting you today.

Joshua blinked. Mission control..? Well that's certainly new. The others had apparently heard the voice as well.

We will provide your flight path to Brazil. Activate your flight goggles and begin running. You will notice that we have installed some new features.

The group heard an alarm begin to blare in the hall. 

"WEEP   WEEEP   WEEP  WEEP..."

Joshua firmly pressed the bridge of his nose, activating his flight goggles and adding a cyan tint to his vision. He turned to look at Myung-Dae, whose goggles were white.  As well as seeing the hall's temperature (75 degrees fahrenheit), he could see his current speed. The group began to run, the alarm's pace quickening.

"WEEP  WEEP WEEP  WEEP..."

Good, but for a smoother transition to flight you must go faster.

Joshua used his aerokinesis to give himself a burst of speed as he was carried by the wind, his speed suddenly shooting up.

"WEEP WEEP WEEP WEEP..."

Joshua gritted as he strained himself to move even faster.

"WEEPWEEPWEEPWEEP..."

Joshua squinted as the metal doors that he was dangerous approaching slowly opening, a swath of light flooding the hall.

Follow the instructions that wil be transmitted into your flight goggles. Happy flying.

Joshua leapt from the edge of the hall, his hair being swept back due to his sheer speed. The wind smacked against his face, and howled in his ears, but his goggles protected his gray eyes.

Chapter Twenty-Four: Global Front - MaltaEdit

The three psychics quickly walked across the rocky ground towards their destination. The sun's blade-like rays cut their young faces, causing salty droplets of sweat to trickle down their adolescent faces. 

Despite originally walking in a single-file line, the three teenagers' original plan had since fallen into disarray. Carmelo had assumed the position at the front of the group, thus making him analogous to the leader. At his heels was Luuk who would overtake Carmelo if he so much as stopped to sneeze. Finally, trailing behind his comrades was Andy, who admittedly didn't care for defending Juan's mining facility.

Due to Juan Carlos instructing the PES to keep them on, Carmelo was wearing his flight goggles, thus giving his vision a red tint. His eyes were trained on the long, white building in the distance, which stood in stark contrast to the area which looked like it could be the pciture to a vacation agency's website. Carmelo's eyes did not wander for an instant, the boy did not even notice the clean, blue water that was sparkling like a diamond, despite the fact that he had never been to the ocean before.

Andy on the other hand took no notice to Juan's facility and instead swooned for the sparkling sea and couldn't help but give a soft caw at the puffy clouds. The koala who was perched on Andy's shoulder expressed similar amazement. The two wondered if they'd see any Maltese animals.

Carmelo touched the space behind his right ear, causing the HUD to appear on his goggles. The teen smiled despite himself. He took notice of the section that said, "PERSONNEL: 0". 

"Looks like everybody inside evacuated." said Carmelo, his face blank as he tapped behind his ear once more to make the HUD disappear.

Luuk smirked. "Excellent, this means that we won't have to hold back."

Carmelo nodded. "Hey-" He sucked in his teeth. Given that he wasn't that keen on talking to people and especially given Luuk's attitude towards him, Carmelo was apprehensive of making conversation to his fellow psychic, but he felt the mission might run smoother if the two were less tense. Besides, he was curious.

"Hey Luuk, how ya' holdin' up after..not bein' successful on your last mission?" asked Carmelo.

Luuk paused. Is this cretin looking to mock me? No matter, I should still answer his question. "I'm fine. Why I felt less than stellar about failing to carry out God's wish of eradicating the witches from the planet, I have trained almost non-stop since then and I am certain that the Lord smiles upong us today and as creation, it is only right that I will do my best to not allow him to weep at the sight of the demonic witches."

Andy let out a groan, which Carmelo ignored. "You're pretty hooked on 'em, God I mean." Carmelo scratched his head. "When did you become so devoted?"

Luuk waved a dismissive hand. "An interesting tale, yet one for another day, nonetheless. For now, I suggest we focus on the mission."

Carmelo folded his arms. "Yeah." he agreed with curtness. Jeez, last time I try to chit-chat.

The three psychic's soon found themselves inside the building. Their vision was cloaked in darkness as the walked down a long corridor. Their bodies were stroked by a chill, and the perspiration on their faces began to turn cold. The light at the end of the hall grew bigger and bigger as they approached it. At the end of the hall, they found themselves in a large, brown room with a high cieling. On the right side of the room and the left side of the room were two large monitors above two desks with advanced computers on top of them. The monitors displayed information about the automatic offshore mining rig, thirty-six miles off the coast. The quiet whir of computers filled the ears of the teenagers.

The psychics could not see the other side of the room, for in the center was a large pile of desks, chairs, monitors, and hardrives.

The three psychic's couldn't help but jump at the sound of a shrill laugh on the other side of the pile, cutting the near-silence like a hot blade against flesh. Luuk assumed a defensive position, Carmelo raised his fists in front of his face, Andy reared back in preperation to break into a run, and Manic jumped to the ground, got on all fours, and growled.

A caramel-skinned witch with puffy, black hair jumped from behind the pile to its peak, her skirt fluttering as she did so. The witch, who looked only a year or two younger than Carmelo, twirled around and gave another shrill laugh. 

She smirked as she looked down upon the three boys. "Helloooo PES! Introducing the one and only, the beautiful, the sensual, the famous, the glorious, the world's greatest artist, Helene Francoise Delacroix!"

Carmelo gave a soft gasp, "Y-you can talk?"

Helene laughed. "Yes, you handsome little devil you! Helene Francoise Delacroix is now in sound! I thought it would only be fair for you to hear the beautiful voice of the maiden who'll kill you. After all, there's nothing quite artistic as the last sounds you've ever hear being the sweetest sounds you've ever heard." she explained before laughing again.

A girl with a long black ponytail with a guitar-like instrument in her hands jumped up to stand next to Helene. "With musical accompaniment by Haoi Mi playing the đàn nguyệt!"

Carmelo put a hand to his face. "Ugh, I think I liked it better when you couldn't speak."

The two girls gasped. "How rude!" exclaimed Helene, with so much emphasis that it was hard to believe she was genuinely that offeneded. "C'mon Haoi Mi, let's make short work of these barbarians with nought a single care for beauty."

Luuk jumped up, and slowly rose in the air. "You wish to commence the battle now? It seems to me that you are the rude one, follower of Gaia. I believe introductions are still in order. My name is Luuk Liefde. I am the being you twisted demons fear. You are so lost that you don't realize that in the end, your visagws are of those of melting infants, and your songs are choruses of anguished screams. I am a child of God, meaning I posess the light to snuff you out. I shall bring justice crashing down on your foul heads!"

Haoi Mi turned to Helene and pretended to yawn.

A very young, dark-skinned witch with long, black hair scampered up to the top of the pile on all fours. Her eyes were cold with annoyance. "Less talking, more killing PES."

Carmelo nodded. "Agreed, less talking, more - hey!"

Haoi Mi snickered. "Nicely done. Well, how about a song?" Haoi Mi began to quickly strum the strings of her đàn nguyệt. "Ohh-oh-oh-ohhhh, before the monkeys tri-i-i-icks, before the tiger's prooowwl, there lived a grand king, who neither barked nor hoo-o-o-wled..."

Carmelo looked at her quizically before he began to look around, a white swirl of dust beginning to form in front of them, causing the PES to slowly walk backwards. 

Carmelo gave a growl before he leapt up in the air, using fire beneath his feet to propel him towards Haoi Mi who paid no heed to the psychic as she continued to strum and sing as if in a trance. Carmelo coated his fist in fire as he approached the witch's face. Before he could attack her however, the short witch fired a blast of black energy towards Carmelo, causing him to quickly roll out of the way. The witch immediately followed it up with another spell. "Watera!" she cried, causing a powerful stream of water to shoot out from the girl's wand, making Carmelo feel as if his head were hit with a baseball bat as it connected. He slammed against one of the large monitors, shattering the glass. Carmelo fell to the floor with a groan.

Haoi Mi continued to sing her song. Her voice logically came from her larynx with assistance from her lungs, yet it sounded as if it came from a world away. Her strange, singing voice and erratic movements made the girl appear as if she were posessed by some infernal creature, but that was not what Luuk, Andy, and Manic were gawking at. In front of them, the swirl of dust was quickly constructing massive bones. When the dust was gone, in front of them stood a massive, skeletal lizard.

"My lord..it's a dragon..." breathed Luuk.

"Dinosaur, actually," corrected Andy, not taking his eyes off of the skeletal behemoth and too amazed to be annoyed at Luuk. "Specifically Carcharodontosaurus." he stated. It's incredible. Gaia apparently only has cheap imitations of nature but it's just like a real dinosaur...well, besides the fact that it's a living skeleton. Andy shook his head. What am I saying? Even if it is an animated, real skeleton, they're meant to be preserved, not played with.

With a final strum of her instrument, green flames flared to life in the dinosaur's empty eye sockets. The young witch jumped onto the goliath's head and the reptile gave a mighty roar once she landed. The girl gave an equally mighty roar in unison, which was such a mighty duet that Andy could swear he felt it in his bones.

Chewing a piece of a Twix bar, Carmelo hobbled back over towards his fellow PES.

Carmelo spoke with the Twix in his mouth."Okay, here's the plan. You guys can deal with dino here while I deal with dumb and dumber over there."

"Who made you leader? I know why you're making us fight the beast, because you're slothful. You know it's the tougher foe." stated Luuk, walking towards Carmelo angrily.

Andy stepped back as the dinosaur gave a roar and whipped its tail towards the psychics. Carmelo leapt in the air towards the other two witches, Andy ducked as Manic jumped onto the skeleton. Luuk was kncoked back towards a desk, where he flipped over behind it.

Carmelo sent a burst of psychic energy towards Haio Mi, causing her to be pushed back through the air. Carmelo turned towards Helene but before he could do anything, he noticed fire shaped like a dart above his head.

"Fire!" Helene shouted before  Carmelo rolled off of the mound which quickly caught on fire. Carmelo quickly whipped his head to see Haoi Mi roll onto her feet, with a smile that stretched ear to ear. He turned then to Helene who had jumped off of the burning mound, laughing.

Is this..a game to them? Carmelo curled his hand in a fist, finishing his thought aloud. "Well, I play to win!" he growled. He thrusted his hand toward the flaming mound and blinked in shock as the flames simply continued to crack and snap, no closer to him than before. He winced and gave a groan as Haoi Mi strummed a chord, sounding dark and twisted once it hit Carmelo's ears. He was then slammed back towards a wall as a concussive blast of air.

The prone psychic heaved, beginning to prop himself with his elbow. If he had less constitution, he would have surely vomitted. He growled, lowly, the witches becoming sharper in his vision as he remembered the words of his master.

...it would behoove you to remember this important fact, the witches' magic is seperated into distinct categories based on properties they share with natural phenemena such as fire, water, light, and wind. As you already know, your kinetic abilities are also seperated into categories. Despite this similarity, it should be noted that magic is not derived from properties of the natural world. Due to this, you cannot manipulate magic using your kinesis, at least not directly...

"What did he say?" Helene laughed, causign Carmelo to grind his teeth as he stood up and ignore the pain in his stomach. "Something aboutwinning? Well, in that case-"

"Ooh! Let me try!" interrupted Haoi Mi with a giggle as she bounced up and down. If Carmelo's stomach cramp had subsided a bit sooner, he would surely have interrupted the tomfoolery with a well aimed blast of fire. "He can't win because the game's rigged!"

Carmelo frowned darkly as he snapped his fingers in order to disorient the witches. His eyes widened and he gasped as Haoi Mi strummed her instrument again, nullifying his attack. Desperate, the psychic thrust out his hand, and a large, sprawling mass of flame shot in front of him. With a smile, Haoi Mi strummed her guitar-like instrument again, causing a strong gust of wind to send the fire backwards, engulfing Carmelo and his clothes in flames.

The psychic couldn't help but let out a scream as his flesh was seared. He frantically began to roll before he closed his eyes and swallowed, fighting the pain. Calm down, calm the fuck down Caremlo! He snapped his fingers and the flames dispersed. He quickly jumped up and heard another strum of Haoi Mi's instrument. He coated his hand in flame and turned around only to be punched in the face with Helene's fist coated in ice. He ignored the stream of blood flowing from his nose but didn't have time to react before he was shocked by two jagged bolts of lightning, causing him to convulse violently.

Miraculously, Carmelo managed to squat, not fall completely. With a roar, he swiped his hand, causing Helene to be shoved backwards. He leapt in the air and burst towards her. He threw a tendril of flame at the hurdling witch. At the call of Catapo, Helene spun up through the air, and flicked her paintbrush at Carmelo along with Haoi Mi flicking her wand. At the synchronized call of Catapo, the Carmelo was hit with two green spirals, causing him to finally vomit as he spun backwards through the air and slammed against a wall, cracks forming upon impact.

The psychic spat in disgust and wiped his mouth. Let's see whatca' got for me. He quickly touched the space behind his right ear, causing the HUD to once again appear in his vision. He looked at the witches, and to his dismay, it didn't give him any data. Right, because I'm the first person to fight 'em with m' goggles on. Course I am..

He shoved himself off the wall and turned his head due to a prompt on the HUD. It indicated that the burning pile, contained a weapon. Carmelo's eyes widened. He was mistaken. The HUD indicated that the burning pile was the weapon. While he couldn't control the flames, the things the flames were burning were fair game.

With a snap, Carmelo caused the pile to suddenly break apart, the flaming desks and chairs dancing through the air. Helene gasped before her head passionately kissed a chair, sending her crumpling toward the ground. 

Carmelo smirked and turned to Haoi Mi. He savagely bit into the palm of his hand, hot blood trickling down like strawberry syrup. He thrust his palm out, a red, x-shaped tendril springing from his bloody hand as he cried "Crimson Prison!" 

Haoi Mi found herself bound in the tendril for only a moment before she rose in the air, choking as her neck was lifted by Carmelo. If her hands were free, she would have clawed at her constricting neck. The girl feared it would soon crumple inwards like paper. 

Carmelo lost his focus and Haoi Mi fell as a torrent of water shot up from the ground, drenching him.

Irritated turned to Helene, who was clutching her head with one handi before she sent him hurtling backwards with another Catapo spell.

He landed on his feet, grateful he would be temporarily saved from Haoi Mi's instrument playing when he heard her say, "Told you iId need a backup player!" and saw a shambling corpse stagger into his vision, picking up the abadoned instrument.

"What the fu-!?"


Luuk's heart threatened to beat straight of his chest as he  fired lumokinetic arrows at the animated fossil. He, almost gracefully, leapt and ran backwards to avoid the dinosaur's terrifying maw. The few arrows that hit the beast harmlessly lodged themselves in his yellowish-white bones, only causing his roars to grow more ferocious.

"Could you try hitting the witch, maybe!?" cried Andy in horrow as the dinosaur snapped at him, forcing the boy to roll out of the way and fire a blast of water at the dinosaur who deftly leapt away.

"That's what I'm trying to do! It's moving very erratically though!" Luuk cried. He ducked under a beam of dark energy, courtesy of the 

Andy barred his teeth, his own heart frantically dancing in the prison known as his chest. Facing a dinosaur was just as horrifying as he imagined it to be. He reached at his leg and grabbed the marsupial who was shivering with fright. He threw his companion like an American football and used his psychokinesis to guide the the small animal onto the tail of the beast, where it quickly scampered up, using his claws to stay firmly on the dinosaur.

The boy and his koala's bond was so strong that no words needed to be exchanged between them. Do it! Use electricity Manic! 

With this, the koala coated his small hands with electricity before leaping up and making a swipe at the back of the young witch's neck, her onyx hair covering its nape. She silently whipped around and suddenly her mouth was open. Manic's eyes widened in terror before the girl's teeth clamped down on him. He squeeled like a pig, blueish-gray legs flailing in the air like a blur. The animals began to grow faint as he became distinctly aware that the witch's mouth was begining to fill with blood, his blood.

Andy himself found himself running on top of the dinosaur towards the witch, who was beginning to savagely shake her head as she was chomping down on her friend. Without much thought, he simply tackled, the three tumbling onto the cold ground. Despite her fall, her grip on Manic held true and he had to pry the witch's mouth open which caused the animal to fall limply to the ground. Meanwhile, Luuk had finally managed to push the dinosaur back thanks to a blast of lumokinesis.

Andy simply looked at the girl who appeared like an animal to him. "What are you?" he asked breathlessly, dumbly.

"Xaviera." she simply said with a frown before leaping in the air and landing on the dinosaur's head which roared before it whipped its tail. Andy created a wall of water to slightly slow the attack, giving him precious time to run with Manic and dive under a desk.

Andy's face twisted in fear as he looked at the bloody mess of Manic's back. He swallowed, a lump of rock traveling down his throat. Manic needed medical attention immediately, and Afwerki was nowhere around. Worse, Manic being incacipated meant that the two couldn't combine to combat the dinosaur.

Andy let out a feral roar and leapt over the table, he used his psychokinesis to thrust the bony monster and its rider in the air. With a flick of his wrist, he turned it upside down, causing Xaviera to hurdle on the ground. She scrambled away on all fours before she was crushed. Andy leapt in the air and fired a barrage of large icicles, pinning the animal down and causing it to roar wrathfully. 

Luuk held out his hands. "Behold! The blinding holy light of The Lord!" he cried before the area was engulfed in a blinding light. Xaviera cried out before swiftly booting Luuk's head with a kick. He staggered, his shock greater than his pain before he heard a cry and found himself cut by a swirl of razor sharp leaves. He stepped away as his limbs glistened with blood for he shielded himself using his arms.

She cannot see, yet she still knows my location! How!? His eye twiched as she made note of her sniffing nose as he leapt towards him. She knows my scent? How devlish! Luuk ducked out under the girl not before she sucessfully grabbed a lock full of golden hair, causing the boy to yell out in pain. She held fast to the boy, punching him in the face with a feral roar. "I've had enough of you! Try to get past my cleansing flames!" he cried before the girl was engulfed in white flames, screaming as she let go of the teenager. He gasped as the flames quickly receded. Is this to mean she's...mostly pure? 

He tried the same technique on the pinned skeleton, yet the flames failed to engulf the creature even for a moment. Tsk, something cannot have a tainted soul if it hath no soul to taint!

Andy blasted the head of the beast with psychokinetic energy, causing a portion of the cranium to blast away. He wasn't anticipating the hands breaking away (pieces chipping off as they did so) and wrapping the boy in their grasp. Before his eyes, the dinosaur broke free, its bones chipping away in some areas. He  threw the hands off of him before they reconnected to the dinosaur's body.

Andy could have done anything to save himself as he hurdled towards the dead reptile's open maw, but once again, the witch was on top of the dinosaur's head and in her eyes, he noticed there was soemthing missing that he had seen in every other human. Her eyes looked pure like an animal's. She said her name was Xaviera, so the boy thought she was a jaguar, and he was unable to move as he found himself mystified by the animalistic witch. There was no way he'd survive those razor-sharp teeth and the animal's biting power.

Andy snapped to attention as Luuk's hands glowed, holding the beasts's mouth agape, blood trickling down to the ground as its teeth pierced his flesh. "What are you doing!?" he cried as Andy lamely plopped into the beast's mouth.

"Y-you're saving me."

"Even if I don't care for all of you guys, you're still god's children and...we'll need to trust one another if we're ever to beat the witches!"

Andy nodded as he leapt out of the beast's mouth and Luuk followe suit. They stared defiantly int he flaming eyes of the beast as it roared at them, their hair being sweapt by the force.

Carmelo groaned as he was slammed into the metal stairway. He looked down. All right, Haoi Mi's down there, now I justa gotta'. The accursed strum of her instrument made his heart sink as the metal at the bottom of the stairs began twisting and rising, eventually in the form of metal people who ran up the steps with metal poles in their ends. Carmelo clicked his tongue before gripping the metal railing of the stairs, transferring intense heat down the stairs as the men began to melt.

Carmelo hadn't much time to react when two birds, one yellow and small, the other large like an owl, began to flutter in his face, causing him to back towards a rail. He felt his legs go numb as one began singing a song. What the hell is happening? His eyes lit up in anger as he saw Helene approach him from the doorway. He used his pyrokinesis to cause the birds to frantically fly away, their flaming wings flapping as they screeched in horror.

He threw his jacket at Helene but unfortunately she was already casting Catapo, causing it to flip through the air and cover the teen's fast as it tightly wrapped around him. He heard soemthing along the lines of "gate" before he felt an inhumanly massive fist punch him, causing him to fly over the railing and plummet down in the air.

He let out an ear-piercing scream as metal pierced his abdoman and shot out his back. He slid down the metal, no doubt one of the surviving metal warrior's rods. With a pained roar he ripped the jacket off, tears in his eyes. He frantically snappe his fingers, causing the sole metal warrior to fly apart. Labariously and with a yell, he lifted the rod out of him, causing him to slump down in his own pool of blood. He managed to weakly trap Haoi Mi in a crimson crimson.

He panted, trying to ignore the gaping hole in his stomach that felt as if flames were eating it inside out. Flam..flame...flames... Carmelo panted as he took out his lighter from his pocket. It's do or die... He crushed the container, ignoring the shards for that pain was miniscule. He allowed the fluid to hang in the air before he squinted.

Come on man, you can do it...you have to do it! The blob of liquid began to thin as it dispersed through the air, eventually growing so thin that it was invisible. Carmelo created a large flame in his hand and threw it on the ground, the entire staircase growing red as flames hungrily licked the flammable air. Carmelo sighed as he felt his wound close as he absorbe some of the flame. He rose, hands out, looking at Helene was was desperately trying to get Haoi Mi fee. There eyes were full of terror, causing Carmelo to grin widely as his arms were covered in his own flames. He threw a pillar of fire and if not for the shield spell created in a brief moment, the witches would have been incinerated. The two frantically dashed up the staircase, dodging their foe's flames.

Luuk looked up as insidious smoke traveled to the top of the room, causing the sprinklers to activate, the ancient bones of the beast glistening. He turned to Andy and nodded. Andy frowned and clapped his hands, a lightning bolt surging through the air and splitting countless times with a crack, shocking Xaviera and causing her to fall off her stead and spasm uncontrollably on the floor. Andy swallowd before shoving the girl away psychokinetically.

Luuk pushed the beast back using a barraged exploding light arrows. Together, it simply looked like a white light. Luuk continued this until the dinosaur was against a wall. He clutche his head in pain and was grateful that his comerade was taking over. The dinosaur qucikly found himself engulfed in a box of water, its flames for eyes still burning strong. The water quickly began to freeze though not before the head disconnected itself and exited the water.

Andy then rose the frozen cube and smashed it against the ground, the bones now broken.

"Andy," Luuk cried, "The head!"

"I know!" he said before using the shards of ice and stabbing the head with it. He swiped his hands and the shards exploded, the head obliterated as the flames suddenly died in the air. Luuk began walking to Xaviera who staggered up before Andy held a restraining arm in front of him.

Her fellow witches came on broomsticks and scooped her up, their faces slick with sweat. "Come on," Helene quickly said "Our work here is done."

They flew away at a breakneck pace seconds before Carmelo entered the area. He was about to give chase before Luuk grabbed his arm.

"What the hell you stoppin' me for!?"

Luuk frowned as he pointed to Andy, holding Manic in his arms. Carmelo's face sunk with shame.

Luuk swallowed. "I just hope Joshua's dream did not ring true."

Carmelo sighed. "Well if it did...can't be much worse than here, right?"

Chapter Twenty-Five: Global Front - BrazilEdit

Joshua walked down the grassy path that led to their destination - the shining base, GLORY. To his left was a forest, the trees a tangle that looked as if they were falling and wrapping themselves on top of each other. The lean teenager breathed in the exotic air and sighed with a smile, hands on his hips. While he was very well aware of the threat of the witches, he did not let this fact deter him from enjoying the scenery. He basked in the air, gawked at the clouds, seemed to feel the very essence of the land in his tiny toes. When the witches came, he'd have to trade intellectual contemplation for breakneck, instinct-driven decision making. He was going to savor the time he had in his mind for as long as he could.

Eziz likewise felt himself receding into his mind. The green blades of grass crumbled under his hard, brown feet, the shrinking greenery eliciting hardly any feeling due to the permanent calluses the teenager bore to the flames he had called home for four years. He grabbed clumps of grass with his toes before dropping them again. These puffy, Brazilian trees, they're so beautiful, unlike anything I have seen in Turkmenistan. I'm sure Afwerki would love to hear me talk about them, but... Eziz solemnly looked at his hand which he curled into a fist. ...how will I be sure that I won't have to burn these trees down, this...entire forest down? If the witches prove too strong it may just come to that. What shall I tell Afwerki then, that yet again I have only validated my prior belief that I am nothing but a monster? He turned to Joshua with a smile. Although Joshua seemed aloof, he knew that the ashy-blonde-haired boy was with him. I wonder if he has all the answers. 

Myung-Dae smiled as Akmal continued to talk to him. He was pleasantly surprised at how cordial his new friend was, he thought Akmal's politeness could rival his own.

"So, you play any sports?" asked Akmal, hands behind his head with a toothy smile.

Myung-Dae smiled softly as he shook his head. "Although my father has sanctioned many sports that you are fond of such as football and track, I myself was too busy to partake in those activities. However, some of my training exercises could be considered sport-like."

"How so?" asked Akmal, tilting his head.

"Well, I ran laps on my personal track, I partook in a wrestling-like test, and I had archery training among other things."

Eziz laughed. "That's awesome. Well good things you joined us, I can't wait to beat you."

Myung-Dae scratched his head, reassessing how polite he thought his new friend was. "Cocky, are we? Well, I'll have you know that-"

Joshua smiled softly as he touched the bridge of his nose, his vision taking on a cyan tint and a green HUD popping up. Fascinating, so much information. It even has the weather, a Summer 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Let's see here...near the sea, chance of rain... Just as he predicted it, Joshua's shift was seamless as he got a warning on his HUD.

"Witches!" he cried. "Overhead, scramble!" 

At their comrade's command, the other PES members dispersed and Joshua leapt out of the way in a roll, dodging a magical blast that kicked dirt every which way.

"Ice!" called a witch, causing Akmal to create a ball made out of dirt with his mind. He quickly hardened it and threw it at the icicle, obliterating it. Pleased with his feat, Akmal began to do a dance.

Eziz angrily growled as he saw Akmal's cockiness get the better of him, leaving him unaware of the witch that called out a water spell. He shoved Akmal out the way before being violently shoved to the ground. Before he could react, he heard a giddy voice cry "Lightning!" causing him to convulse in his pool of water.

Although he was busy making sure he stayed alive, Joshua couldn't help but marvel at the fact that he could understand what the witches were saying. He was able to successfully blow a witch away from the group using a gust of wind, but she soon righted herself and flew back.

Myung-Dae smiled in amusement as he stared at the witches flying on their brooms. More whimsical than threatening really. His smile never leaving his face, Myung-Dae held out a hand, his fingers splayed out. A witch with blond hair let out a scream as he began to fall out of the air, clutching her head. With a growl, the witch stopped plummeting towards the ground and began circling ahead once more like a bird of prey.

Myung-Dae raised his eyebrows. Stubborn little things, aren't they...as I've forseen. Seeming to know an attack was coming, he erected a psychic barrier, rendering the pressurized water spell null as it spread across the force in front of him like a hose of water on a window.

Akmal smiled nervously. His black eyebrows soaked up his hot perspiration as he tried his hand at aiming psychic blasts at the cackling witch overhead, his efforts to no avail as he continued to speed under and over the blasts.

Joshua gracefully jumped and dived away from the magical spells of his enemies. Although he hadn't found himself tired, he knew that more of his acrobatics would quickly prove taxing. This would not be a problem if his enemies were experiencing similar stress. However, as it was, the PES were just fighting flies with flimsy swatters and no wall to use to pin them was in sight.

His eyes quickly caught sight of the lush green cover that, no matter how skilled they were, the witches would be unable to fly in. Joshua frowned as touched behind his ears, starting a transmission between the four PES. 

"To the trees! Come on!" he commanded as he waved a hand towards himself and began sprinting towards the trees. His comrades followed suit.

Myung-Dae had no trouble dodging the witches' attacks as he quickly yet calmly followed Joshua who disappeared into the vegetative growth like a phantom. How unexpected. I did not take him for a leader. His friend...Carmelo, I believe. I thought for sure that he was the leader among his comrades. Nevertheless, if Joshua is the leader, I shall watch over him.

Upon Joshua's signal, the PES slowed down, eventually stopping so that they would not make any noise. Joshua gave a nod as they quietly began crouch-walking towards a large tree.

Joshua held his head. Talk about deja vu... He held up a hand behind him, the three other psychics stopping accordingly. People other than Zoe listening to me? His soft, pink lips spread into a grin. I could get used to this. The PES could no longer hear the sounds of their adversaries. 

Joshua looked upwards at the plant sticking up like a king. "We need a vantage point." said Joshua before he leapt up the tree, wrapped his feet around it, and began to climb.

Eziz nodded. "That is a wise idea." he said before he held his arms out and began floating. Myung-Dae did likewise.

Joshua chuckled in embarrassment at the realization that he forgot that he could fly as well. He felt some solace in the fact that Akmal wa also scaling the tree the old fashioned way.

Once Joshua had finished climbing, he blinked as he settled himself and looked through the opening in the leaves. The scene felt oddly familiar as he found himself high above the ground. 

The cool, soft, and flat body of a leaf tickled his face and a smell similar to maple teased his nostrils. To his right, he saw Akmal yawning, and to his left, he saw Eziz frowning at Akmal. Joshua's nose itched but he could not scratch it, for his scouting required as much silence as possible. His gaze was locked in the space between the grass below, the sea in front of him, and the research facility standing on a cliff to his right. His muscles tensed as he heard shrill cackling. Once the psychic turned his head, he was greeted by the four witches zooming forward on broomsticks.

With a gasp, his eyes widened. This scene...it was in my dream! I dreamt this! I saw that this was going to happen. He shook his head. There was no time to gawk. With a brief motion, he leapt off of the branch and into the air, his comerades following suit.

They turned in the air towards the flying witches who were barreling through the air toward the facility.

"Gotcha' now!" cried Akmal, thrusting a fist in the air as he flew, hoping to hit the witches with a psychokinetic fist. The four boys audibly called out in confusion as the witches dissippated in the wind.  They swiveled around and still saw nothing.

It was only due to the calls of fira, watera, and lightning and their subsequent painful plummet to the earth that the teenagers realized that they had made a mistake.

...

Isabella, Felicia, and Afisa couldn't help but smile as the PES hurdled to the ground, their insectoid wings clipped. The witches flipped in the air before diving down towards their prey like falcons...well, everyone except Lillian, whose ungraceful descent was more akin to a distressed dodo. She barred her teeth in order to stifle the scream that was threatening to shoot out of her throat. 

The grass crunched under Isabella, Afisa, and Felicia's black rubber boots as they jumped off of their brooms as if they had been flying all of their lives. They made haste in whipping out their wands from the manaspace conjured through their sleeves, the brown wood slipping into their slender fingers. 

With a yelp, Lillian fell face-first to the ground, her bum pointing upward. She groaned in pain. It amazed her that she wasn't dead, she simply chalked it up to magic. She winced as she picked herself up and brushed dirt off of her dress with a frown.

"Lightning!" cried Isabella, sending a bolt of lightning at the neat-haired boy she saw in Manchester. The boy smirked mischeviously as he slid under the attack.

"So you, tricked us. Color me impressed, toots." he said, causing Isabella to sneer in disgust.

"Shut up, you monster." growled Isabella.

Lillian cautiously backed away pulling her fingers nervously as Felicia let out a laugh and fired another ligthning spell as she ran towards a barefoot PES.

Lillian gasped and jumped as she bumped into someone. She turned around to see a PES with an eery cat-smile. He was as white as a ghost, and his long black hair looked like that of a madman.

"Going somewhere?" he asked warmly. Before Lillian could even react, she felt her knees buckle, yet she was held up by a crushing force around her neck. As her wand slid into her hand, she fought the urge to immediately drop it. She held it up weakly.

F-fire..." Lillian choked, her voice the croak of a frog. Only a puff of smoke came out of her wand. "Damn it..." she choked forlornly. She gasped for air as the PES glided calmly away due to Afisa firing an icicle and Isabella directing a torrent of water at him. Lillian fell to her knees.

"Get up, and if you can't fight then stay out of the way!" growled Isabella. Afisa disapproved of harsh her sister sounded, yet she stayed silent for she shared the sentiment.

Lillian coughed. "I'm here to support you guys. I need to stay somewhat near you." she said, her voice physically weak yet hardened with determination.

Isabella clicked her tongue with annoyance and dashed away. Afisa looked at Lillian with concern before running back into the fray with Felicia who giddily was running while firing icicles at a running PES.

Lillian frowned, fishing through manaspace as she briskly made her way towards the trees. She ignored the throbbing pain on her neck that felt like an insidious heartbeat. I won't be a liability... She took out a flask of green liquid and let a bit trickle down her mouth and throat. The throbbing hadn't even receded, it had completely disappeared and she felt as good as new. She wasted no time fishing in her manaspace for another potion.

Afisa ducked under a ball of fire hurdled at her by the PES she was firing and used a catapo arimed at the ground to send her flying through the air. "Ice!" she cried repeatedly, sending a volly of icicles at the PES. When he couldn't dodge them, he created walls of fire in front of himself. 

Afisa landed and with the call of "Water", created a powerful stream of water that pushed the PES back. "Icera!" she called, fiiring a large icicle at the PES. Her hatred for the PES only made the process of collecting mana through her body all the more exhilrating.

She smiled, speaking in a mocking, sincere-sounding tone. "What's wrong afraid of a little cold, you monster?"

The PES propelled himself  to safety my manifesting fire on the soles of his feet, landing next to Afisa. She couldn't help but be unnerved at his calm voice.

"I am afraid of little. Furthermore, I am no monster."

"Blizzara!" cried Afisa. A torrent of icy wind and snow pelted the PES. He began to shiver as the clumps of snow clung to his wet body. Afisa grinned as the PES sunk to his knees.

"Say, didn't I see you and your friend in Manchester the other day?" smirked the PES Isabella found herself fighting.

"Shut up!" cried Isabella. "Lightningra!" she cried, the air seeming to crackle as a trident of electricity shot from her sleeve-obscured wand, before firing again. Despite the rapidness of the spell. the psychic seemed to dodge it without much problem.

"What's your name?" he asked with a sly smile.

"Isabella, and you're dead!" Isabella cried, firing a torrent of water at the PES, who easily dodged the attack that created a hole in the ground.

"It's Akmal, actually." he smiled, jerking a thumb towards himself. "But you can call me anytime." he said, his white teeth glistening.

Felicia simply laughed at the PES once she was swatted away from him. "Fire!" she called with joy, pointing her wand at her assailant who simply directed the attack towards the sea without so much as blinking an eye. He hit her with an invisible, psychokinetic whip, causing her to crumble to the ground.

She laughed dementedly at the burning stinging pain on her back. "This pain is so exciting!"

The PES laughed, his long black hair blowing in the breeze. "Well, at least you're having fun." he said with a smile.

Satisfied with her analyzing, Lillian took out three potions from her manaspace, jogging towards Afisa who was panting.

In part due to her burning hatred for the PES having the unfortunate side-effect of burning away any moderation, Afisa found herself prematurely drained, panting as she regarded the PES who stood up defiantly a ways away from her, very cold and bleeding from some cuts, but otherwise none worse for wear.

"Afisa," called Lillian. "Catch!" Afisa did so, and did not hesitate to down the blue liquid in the vial. She shuddered, her eyes widening as her breathing briefly quickened. She felt as if she hadn't so much as thought about casting a spell that day. 

Her reactions sharp, Afisa quickly rolled away from a fireball hurdled at her courtesy of the PES she was dueling with. From a kneeling positon, she cried "Ice!", sending an icicle hurtling towards her enemy who leapt out of the way. Afisa gasped. It barely felt like she had casted a spell. She smirked as she  stood up, and fired another spell, forcing the teen to leap another direction, then the other. He might become tired after all.

As Lillian jogged away, she turned towards Isabella who was growing more and more enraged at the PES who was taunting her. Her scowl looked animalistic and denied acess to no tooth.

"Isabella!" called Lillian, raising a closed flask with a bubbling red liquid.

"What!?" barked Isabella, her eyes like fire.

Lillian gave a small yelp before she swallowed and hardened her expression. "This should help!" she revealed before tossing the container. It spun rapidly before being snatched out the air by Isabella's long-nailed fingers. Savagely, she ripped the cork out with her teeth, spat it away, then splashed the liquid in her mouth. After swallowing it, she burped loudly. She blinked in confusion. Did I just drink strawberry soda?

Isabella turned to see Akmal dashing towards her. He leapt to kick her, forcing her to instinctively duck. Isabella's eyes threatened to pop out of her head and she found herself sprawled out on the grass like a starfish. She had went down faster than she anticipated. She told her brain to move her head slightly and it moved as much as it could. Jesus Christ, who the hell bumped up the sensitivity on this thing?

She saw Akmal land and she immediately jumped up and fired a torrent of water at his back, sending him crashing into the cool grass. A snake-like grin spread across Isabella's face before she called, "Groundo!" she called, causing a pillar of hardened dirt to shoot up, hitting Akmal in the groin with a satisfying scream. Isabella first began to softly chuckle, the chuckle gaining traction into a laugh, then finally cascading into a maniacal laugh.

Isabella felt her movements were fluid, unpredictable, and swift. She was as powerful as the tides of the Pacific Ocean, as cunning as the cobra. "Fire!" she cried with a smile, sending five fireballs zooming out of her sleeve, hitting Akmal was was falling down from the heavens.

Isabella smirked as she moved her lime-green hair.  away from her right purple eye. Izzy liiiike.

Lillian looked at Felicia with worry as the girl fired spell after spell that was deftly dodged by the PES she was fighting. He thanked her efforts with brutal counter-attacks that never required so much as a head nod. All the while, his unnervingly soft, cat-like smile never fled his lips. He appeared he wished to dine with Felicia rather than brutalize her.

Determined, Lillian tightly gripped her vial. She actually felt useful for a change, and she would be able to help her fellow witch. Don't worry, help is on the way Felicia. One Potion of Fortitude coming right up.

A command to catch the container was on her lips when the fine hairs on the girl's neck pricked up as a ghastly chill washed over her. She heard the soft voice of a female.

"Going somewhere?" the voice asked. What was it that she heard? A tinge of mcokery?

Lillian turned and gasped. The voice actually belonged to a boy. She was taken aback by his soft face, his etheral features, his ashy-blonde hair, and his gray eyes...oh god his eyes... that were teasingly sleepy-looking yet also appeared as if they saw everything that occured in this world. Lillian knew she had never met the youth in her life yet...he seemed almost painfully familiar.

Surely this guy isn't some monster. He almost looks like some kind of angel.

She snapped to attention as she began backing away, her wand loosely in her hand. Even if he looked like an angel, it would behoove her to remember that Lucifer was once an angel as well.

"So you enhance your allies' abilities?" the boy asked with a slight smile. Lillian swallowed. You're smart. She chatized her silence, knowing it would probably serve as confirmation.

His hand was out in front of him, palm facing the heavens. Although Lillian knew his stance was from a martial art of some sort, she couldn't help but think of him offering to dance.

The boy shot forward faster than. Although he moved quickly, it looked less like a run and more like long, purposeful strides. Lillian barred her teeth once the boy was in front of her. She began to move her wand, then gave out a short scream once the boy's leg flashed upward, his foot kicking the stick out of her hand and into the air.

Before Lillian could react, the boy's palms were striking her face like flat rocks, forcing her to stumble backwards. With another swift kick, the flask was out of her hand. She then felt an elbow to the stomach, robbing her breath followed by a shattering punch to the nose, causing a crack and spilling blood into the air.

Lillian tried to maintain her footing in the face of her adversary, but thanks to the psychic powers he was famed for, she found herslef flying through the air thanks to two powerful bursts of air, the cold wind smacking her face and jerking her backwards. She began to fall towards the waters below.

Afisa heard a cry from Lillian and whipped her head as she saw her hurdling companion. "Lillian!" she cried, turning around and preparing to chase after her when she screamed as a searing, solid fire shoved her to the ground.

"You are fighting me and therefore you should not turn your back on me. Did your precious mother not teach you that?" asked the PES in his hard, cold voice.

A feral growl slithered from Afisa's barred teeth. The monsters in front of her caused her blood to boil more than floating near the hottest star. Her mother was murdered due to being labelled a monster, and here these beasts were using their powers for evil. They were the reason witches were seen as freaks. They would rape, murder, and destroy just for a laugh and she hated every moment that they were near.

Despite the flames around her, she turned around to face her assailant. Such lack of emotion, such ugly brown eyes. 

She spat "Icera!" causing a large icicle to hurdle in the air, lodging in his stomach. She dashed away, thankful that her garb was, at least to an extent, fireproof. This caused the fabric of her dress to shimmer as if pelted with glitter.

Before the PES could chase after her, Natasha, Afisa's spectacled caiman familiar, leapt up from the ground (where it used its magic to camoflauge itself) and engulfed the PES' arm in it. She gave a ghoulish smile as her venomous, magial fangs sunk into the PES' arm. His eyes widened as he frantically tried to shake her off, eyes wide in horror as he felt his arm begin to grow numb. He engulfed it in flame, forcing her off.

I'll always have your back, always. Natasha said to Afisa in her mind. Afisa smiled.

Lillian continued to hurdle towards the ocean, the water lazily shifting beneath her as her crimson blood from her nose trailed towards the sky. The fledgling witch held her hand out and closed her eyes. She tried to collect the mana inside herself. Come on...I need you, come on, come on, come on...

"Oof!" Lillian grunted, opening her eyes as she felt a long piece of wood under her. A moment later and she would have crashed into the water. She took another health potion out of manapace and quickly drank a bit, the stream of blood drying up and her nose righting itself. She frowned for she only had a bit left. She flew herself back into the fray.

Felicia chuckled weakly as she crawled towards her foe.

"Had enough?" he asked.

"And go back to being bored?" she asked with a smile. "No way!" she said, her aching bones nor her broken ones apparently not affecting her. "No way!"

"Well, I hope the afterlife proves exciting." he said before firing a psychic blast at her prone body. Instead of her head being caved in and her body flying limply into the air, Kajsa leapt in front of his best friend. He created a translucent pink psychic barrier, his tail smoothly dancing in the air as he sat, facing the psychic.

He turned his head towards Felicia. "I'm aware this conflict excites you, but please, I beg you, do not let your seek of a thrill cause you to throw your life away."

Felicia blinked, taken aback by Kajsa's adult, sophisticated, British accent. She was so shocked that her lust-like excitement left her momentarily. Lillilian dropped next to Felicia, falling as she touched the ground. She held a potion out.

"Take it." Lillian groaned.

Felicia nodded and grabbed the bottle, Lillian helping her to drink it. Felicia's mouth spread into a wicked grin as she leapt up, completely rejuvenated.

Kajsa spoke once more. "PES?" he asked.

"Yes?"

"What is your name?" the cat asked.

"Myung-Dae. What about you?" he said with a bow.

"Kajsa. Well, I thank you Myung-Dae, you have thoroughly entertained my dear friend Felicia. However, I fear play time is over."

Lillian pumped her fist forward. "Yeah! What he said! Everyone group up!"

Akmal fell limply to the ground, occasionally and involunatarily spasming due to the electric shocks he had endured. Satisfied with her work, Isabella wisped her hands and turned towards Lillian with a smile. "You heard the girl! Everybody squad up!" she called. Both her and Afisa ran towards the other to witches.

Lillian turned around and saw the PES she had fought before about to make a move. "Isabella, watch out!" she cried, causing Isabella to turn around and easily blast him away with water. She smacked her lips and looked at Lillian in disappointment, no doubt expecting a bigger challenge. Lillian simply shrugged sheepishly.

"Split up and attack him from all sides!" cried Lillian.

"Okay, hold up. Who made you leader?" asked Isabella in slight irritation.

"Just do it!" cried Lillian, causing the four witches to dash off in opposite directions so they surrounded Myung-Dae. Afisa rolled under a psychic attack and fired an icera spell to which Myung-Dae simply sent it hurdling away.

Isabella fired a torent of water at Myung-Dae who simply leapt in the air and blasted her away with a psychic blast. Lillian was about to fish for a potion when she cried out blasted away via a concussive fire spell from Felicia.

"What the devil, Felicia! I was right there!" Lillian cried.

"Sorry!" Felicia laughed, her breasts heaving with excitement. She leapt on her broom and yelled "Light!" as she pointed her wand at Myung-Dae from above. He blocked the spell by using his own attack, the two of them clashing.

Isabella growled as she heard the PES Afisa was fighting approaching from behind. "Lightning!" she cried, she PES convulsing as the bolt of electricity connected with his stomach.

Lillian tossed Afisa and Isabella potions that would increase their spell strength. "Give it all you've got, this only lasts for a bit! Attack him while he's busy with Felicia."

They noded and drank the purple potion. They felt a brief sickness wash over them before the naseous feeling in their stomach passed and they cast their spells.

"Leafo!" cried Isabella.

"Icera!"  screamed Isabella.

Myung-Dae yelled out in pain as he was hit by the force of three spells. He crumbled to the ground and Felicia, Isabella, and Afisa advanced upon him, causing him to emit a psychic shockwave that shoved them backwards.

Lillian quickly picked herself up, wanting to help her fellow witches more when she suddenly felt what seemed to be a bowling ball hit the back of her head. She crumbled to the ground as she felt an oozing on the back of her head.

She tried to pick herself up but couldn't find the strength. From her lopsided vision, she saw the angelic boy running towards her. She closed her eyes in anticipation for the kick when she heard it muffled by soemthing. She opened her eyes and jerked to a sitting position.

She confusedly rubbed her eyes as a fat panda stood in front of her with its hands on its hips. The PES looked equally confused as he backed away. To her amazement, she felt better, though her head was still oozing with what she presumed to be blood. The panda suddenly grabbed the PES and threw him far away where he rolled on the ground. Through the fearful expression of his eyes and his squirming, it was clear to Lillian that the teen wanted to get up but could not.

Lillian scooted away from the panda and held her wand out, Akmal and the other PES in her line of sight.

What the hell am I doing? I don't know how to use spells. Lillian then shook her head. But I have to try because...because they're depending on me! Lillian tightly gripped her wand with both hands. "Fire!" she cried before she dropped her wand and covered her mouth.

Out of Lillian's wand shot out a violent torrent of flames that completely enguled the strip of land that was before her and obscured her vision. The spell was so powerful that her wand compeltely exploded into hundreds of tiny pieces of wood. She stepped away from the searing heat.

Her awe was so great that she could not keep her thoughts inside her mind. "What...? How...? Did I...? That was the biggest spell I've ever seen..."

Once the flames died, she saw another PES slumped down in front of the angelic one she was aiming at. 

"Did I kill him?" she gasped. Regardless of the answer, she found herself blasted away by wind.

...

Joshua shook at the limp body of Eziz who had shielded him from the witche's horrifying attack. It took all his composure to not knock the perpetrator of the hellish flame spell away using aerokinesis. He tried to scan the area for Akmal when he yelled out in pain, his body shaking as he felt a burning pulse course through his veins: electricity.

He fell weakly to the ground. With a grunt, he moved his anching limbs as much as he could until he was kneeling, his pose similar to genuflection. He wasn't sure if it was due to his muscles aching due to the attack he endured or if it was simply due to fear, but he could not move his body at all despite his imminent death. Sweat rolled down his face as he faced a blond-haired witch who was standing in front of him, murder in her blue eyes. He had to crane his neck to see her face from his position. She was snarling at him like a feral animal. Her wand was pointed threateningly at the boy.


"Freeze in hell! Icera!" she growled before a large icicle zipped towards the psychic.

Joshua was frozen in place, unable to avoid the attack that would surely pierce through his body. He couldn't even close his eyes to make the pain easier. His eyes suddenly widened. Again! I saw this in my dream! I saw my death coming and I could do nothing to prevent it. He could move now. He was shaking in despair. In my last moments, I was an idiot. Forgive me, Zoe... 

Suddenly, Joshua found himself shoved away, and taking the position that his shivering body previously was Myung-Dae, confidently braced for attack. Joshua desperately reached his hand toward his savior, his movements seeming to be in slow motion. 

The jagged, giant shard of ice pierced Myung-Dae's stomach. The ice that had entered a bluish-white upon entering exited the body dripping red as it lodged itself on the ground. His hot blood splattered on Joshua's wrinkled shirt, his white skin. Myung-Dae slumped down, his spine obliterated by the attack. 

Like a phantom, the green-haired witch was upon the defenseless psychic, and threw a hand towards the ghoulish hole in his body, sending a horrible amount of electricity into his body, causing him to convulse like a epileptic. Joshua let out the horrible screams that Myung-Dae would not permit himself to emit. Despite his horror, Joshua still stood still. 

Joshua would never forget the green-haired witch's face as he brought her hand to Myung-Dae's mouth, her sleeve covering his pale face. Joshua covered his mouth as she shot of torrent of water from her sleeve, the water shooting out the back of Myung-Dae's neck and creating a liquidy, bloody mess on the grass as he lifelessly fell to the apathetic ground. 

Only now did Joshua stand up. "Get Eziz! We must retreat!" he said. Although he thought he was a coward for his previous actions, he was surprised at how level and controlled his command was to Akmal.  

With a horrified nod, Akmal ran to Eziz, grabbed him, and leapt into the air where he flew away Joshua did the same as they flew north, ignoring the sounds of fire and explosions as the destruction of GLORY commenced with cackles and laughs.

Chapter Twenty-Five-point-Five: The After DrizzleEdit

Lillian absently ate her mutton, her eyes half-closed as she focused her vision on the table. Her knuckles were white and it was a wonder how she hadn't broken the bone she was holding. So withdrawn was the witch that she did not even take heed to Zoe's jokes about how she ate like a starving savage.

Zoe in turn had no trouble noticing that her friend was forlorn about something, but she tried to keep a smile in hopes that it might lighten her mood. "I heard you casted a spell today, a big one. One bigger than one we've ever seen."

Lillian finally let a sad smile steal her face as she moved her meat way from her mouth, her cheeks stained with brown sauce. Zoe giggled, thinking her friend would be helped more by Gaia if she gave her a with a bib rather than a new wand.

"Yeah, it was really something. Even though I'm not too keen on this whole witch thing, I was really proud of myself back there." she smiled.

Zoe nodded. "I'm glad to hear it."

Lillian nodded before she began to absently eat once more.

Zoe sighed, her smile dissolving. "Alright, guess I have to just get it out of you. Why are you so blue, Sue?"

"I watched them brutally murder a boy." Lillian said matter-of-factly, not taking her eyes away from the table.

Zoe scratched her head and frowned. She looked away awkwardly. "Oh, I heard...listen, Lillian-"

Lillian tried her best not to cry. She tightly gripped her skirt. "He didn't look much older than me. He...he could have been younger, now that I think about it."

"You weren't the one who did it, and I'm sure...I'm sure there was no other way." said Zoe, putting a hand on her friend, whose eyes were beginning to glisten with tears. Zoe scooted closer to her, her face. "I'll just tell you what my mother always tells me and what I tell Joshua: que sera, sera."

Lillian felt her body go stiff at the mention of Joshua. But why? She was fine hearing his name before. Why did his name suddenly illicit such a response? She tried to brush away the feeling.

"Que sera, sera? What does that mean?" Lillian asked, finally turning towards Zoe.

Seeing the budding tears, Zoe smiled for her friend. "It means what will be, will be. I know it's upsetting, but you shouldn't let it eat you. Worrying about the past or future won't do you any good. That's why the time we have now is called the present: we must treasure it and by doing this, we can have a great future."

Lillian suddenly hugged her. "Thank you," she said, her tears flowing down as she let the ugly frog-like noise of a cry escape her throat. She spoke quietly. "It wouldn't even be that bad if they showed some regret. I bet they're proud of what they did."

On the other side of the table, Amalija laughed at something Kajsa said while Felicia turned red as a beat and turned away. Isabella simply gave a soft smile at her friends, while under the table, her nails dug into her leg. If she were a normal girl, she surely would have bled.

"I'm sorry we fled, Gaia," apologized Haoi Mi with a bow.

"That's all right, you gave those PES a run for their money," Gaia said as she clapped her hands together with glee.

"We sure did, those uncouth boys didn't know what hit them!" Helene laughed.

Xaviera tilted her head curiously. Why you act so proud? You shaking on the way back.

...

As the witches walked through the forest to get through the treehouse, they walked through a patch of forest where there were no branches, the moon casting its heavenly light on the ground. The witches passed, grateful that they were going to get some rest. Gaia smiled then stopped as she found herself under the moonlight.

"Oh?" she said. She put her fist under her chin and nodded. "I see," Gaia said quietly. The grand witch beamed with joy. "Well, it's about time." She raised a hand. "Ankur?"

The familiar stopped in his tracks, spinning around. "Yes?"

"Prepare a trip for tomorrow," Gaia said, smiling.

Ankur nodded, the breeze of the forest cooling his bare chest. "Very well, dear.

...

The unconscious Eziz found himself bathed in a warm glow. It was his friend's decision to not let his recovery be exclusively in the hands of their master's doctors. As his roommate, he felt a duty to see that he was properly cared for.

The room was filled with the methodical beeps of the heart monitor, the whirr of the Limited Healing Bed, and of course the breathing of the two boys. Soon, a doctor would be in the room again to check up on the patient.

Afwerki gently squeezed Eziz's hand with a sad smile as he . You're so caring. I'm glad to call you my friend. I'll make sure you're good as new in no time.

Eziz unconsciously gripped Afwerki's brown hand in return.

...

Room D-12 was unusually quiet that night. Joshua and Carmelo silently lay in their respective beds, too lost in their own thoughts to even acknowledge that there was another being in the room. It was only when Joshua shifted slightly that Carmelo blinked, remembering that there was someone occupying the bed under him.

Joshua thought Carmelo voice more thoughtful and introspective that night he couldn't help but smirk. Trying to try your hand at being me, hmm?

"Don't you just love fire?" Carmelo asked.

Joshua sat up. "Hmm?" he asked.

"Fire. Don't you love fire? Isn't it..what's it you always say? Fascinating?" asked Carmelo, staring at his open hand.

Joshua nodded. "Yes, fire is quite fascinating. It's amazing how a simple element was able to completely change human life once it was discovered. That's why it's important in some mythologies. I guess it's kind of like the Apple or Pandora's Box. It gives us so much knowledge and power, yes. But at what cost? Our purity?"

Carmelo nodded. "Yeah..something like that. I think I'm on a fix about the meaning...the ramifications of fire."

Joshua raised his eyebrows. Ramifications? You're opening up, Carmelo.

Carmelo jumped down and held his hand close to Joshua before he engulfed it in flame. Despite the closeness of the flame, Joshua did not flinch.

"Fire..it can destroy, but because of the destruction it makes thing. When it burns stuff it makes them dirty, but it can also clean things. Today, when I was fighting the witches, I created a room full o' flame and felt like I was being cleaned and a new me was being born." Carmelo then laughed and shook his head. "But that's a buncha' crazy shit." he began to climb towards his bed.

Joshua smiled and slowly shook his head. "I don't find it crazy, I find it really insightful." He sighed at Carmelo's silence. "Guess it's my turn to talk..." Joshua chuckled nervously. He swallowed before closing his eyes.

"I watched the witches brutally murder a man." Joshua suddenly said.

"Yeah, I kn-"

"He died because of me." Joshua shook his head before turning on his side. "I don't even know why he saved me. He was trying to kill me last week, so why?" he pondered.

Carmelo blew a breath. "Beats me. I can't tell you what was goin' on in that crazy-ass dome of his...but, I'm glad you're okay."

"At the expense of others?"

"Well..I honestly don't care that Myung-Dae died and you shouldn't either. You said it yourself, he tried to kill you." 

"Eziz also protected me.I suppose I just want to know how many scars we'll accumulate before this is all over? I know you said you liked scars, but we might get scars that will change us, that will kill us."

Carmelo sighed. "Just don't worry about it tonight. We're here, we're alive."

"Well...what if you can't say that tomorrow? What if you leave?"

Carmelo chuckled. "Don't worry about me. I'm a tough motherfucker, I won't leave ya' Joshua."

"Thanks." said Joshua with a smile. He got up and went to the bathroom, closing the door behind him. He looked at his frowning reflection, the teen deep in thought.

...

Andy laid down in his dark room, arm covering his eyes. His breathing was shallow as if breathing heavier would make the thought leave. He told himself to just drop it, he told himself to just lay down until he drifted to sleep and come morning, it would only be a distant memory that he'd be able to look at with indifference.

Manic whined softly from under the bed as a result of his friend's confliction.

Andy quickly moved his arm and opened his eyes. He saw Xaviera's eyes - those puma's eyes trained on him. He shuddered as she remembered her animalistic roar that gave the dinosaur a run for its money. He marveled at the thought of her feral movements as the image of her running on all fours was grafted into his mind.

He shook his head. What the blimmin' 'ell is wrong with you, mate? You obsessed with little girls now? Despite his chastisement, he shook his head. No, I'm not thinking about her because of sexual or romantic reasons, I'm just...fascinated by her. Andy sighed. She's exactly what I want to be. An animal in a human body. I wonder if I'll get to see her again. I know she's a witch but...I just have to ask her about her life.

...

Kola walked down the dark halls of Juan's castle, her footsteps quiet as she made her way to her destination. She had traveled this route so much that she could have walked with her eyes closed. Although she had only lived in the castle for two years, it felt as much of a home as it would have if she lived there her entire life. This was probably due to the presence of her father.

Kola was somewhat smug about her transformation that she had undergone throughout her trek that night. If one had bumped into her after she had first exited her room (assuming they could clearly see her face in those dark halls that were only sporadically graced with moonlight) they would clearly see the distress and urgency on her face. Now however, her normal, stoic face successfully served as a shroud to her thoughts.

Her wanting, her vulnerability towards him grew more and more every day. Therefore every day she grew more and more disgusted with herself.

She had slipped out of her body suit as if it was the skin of a snake - standard fare. She had crawled into her bed nude, drawing the covers over her brown breasts in preparation for slumber - she sometimes slept in pajamas, other times a nightgown, other times in the nude, either way it was nothing unusual, just not a constant.

However, as she tried to drift to slumber, his body appeared in her mind, coming into existence like a mirage, those beautiful gray eyes twinkling like stars in a fantasy. She felt herself grow hot under her covers, her hand trailing down until she jerked with a shudder and a soft smile spread across her lips - the very opposite of standard fare.

The hair on her neck tingled and her nipples hardened as her hand began to move sensually, her fingernails scratching against course hair. She let out a whimper that told of pleasure and pain that Kola could not fathom as she began involuntarily rocking her hips.

She gasped at the sound of a knock, but she immediately knew it was simply a machination of her mind. As she sat there, her face was hot with red embarrassment and tears threatened to spill over. What would her father think if he saw her like this? She ran to the bathroom, disgusted at herself for the wetness of her hand. 

She then pulled on her suit and exited the room, making her way to the training center. She read in one of the books that she mandated was required reading due to her newfound ailment that physical exercise was a good way to direct her urges elsewhere. The thought of beating away all the thoughts she felt impure on a punching bag appealed to her to no end.

She gave a start once she saw Joshua in the training center. She quickly and quietly sidestepped out of the doorway before giving a peer inside. She hadn't seen Joshua with much fervor as he had that night as he furiously beat the punching bag with lightning fast punches. His hands were like a blur as they relentlessly struck the defenseless bag.

Chapter Twenty-Six: The CalmEdit

Lillian gave a low, almost inaudible groan as the gentle rays of the sun prodded at her closed eyelids, the light too weak to budge the flaps of skin. In the distance she could hear the soft flaps and scratches of turning pages along with accompaniment from the speedy sprape of a pencil - Haoi Mi was no doubt in a corner, transcribing the lyrics and notations to a song that had came to her in the night. Closer, Lillian's ears were graced with the quiet and frantic murmurs one of her sisters, the voice pleading - Amalija, reverently praying to Him before she began her day. Perhaps it was for the fallen boy of the previous day. Finally, Lillian's ears were treated to the carefree chirps of the morning larks, the sound so close that her body tingled from the musical trills. She could swear that the beak was inches from her face.

Lillian turned then slowly opened her eyes with the hope that she would be graced with the sight of her morning musician. She blinked a few times until her vision was clear. She saw nothing. 

The witch blew a disappointed breath at the no-show. She simply stared at the spot for what seemed to be an eternity. She was beginning to think the chirping the tail-end of a wayward dream when it gave an encore. It must be just out the door...

Since she was already enthralled in the chains of conciousness, Lillian took stock of her surroundings. She currently found herself facing Xaviera, her limbs sprawled wide as if someone was trying to rip them apart via rope. Lillian couldn't help but chuckle as she remembered the girl in her last moments before slumber, expending all of her energy as she manically chased around a fly that had wandered into the treehouse.

Lillian turned to where she was before and blinked as she became concious of where her left arm was: tightly wrapped around Zoe's waist as her body softly shrank and grew in time with her breath. As she realized this, she became concious of the stubby arm that was wrapped around her friend's dainty waist. She was aware of her putrid pool of saliva that collected under where her mouth was. She was aware of Zoe's sizable and shapely breasts against her own that she felt were no more than drooping mounds of fat.

She was become increasingly uneasy the more she thought about how close her and Zoe were. They were sleeping together. Sure, six other people were in the bed as well, but still... Sleeping was an intimate affair. Since day one Gaia had stressed that the ten girls were all sisters under the motherhood of the Earth. Even with this in mind, Lillian wasn't sure that it was normal to sleep with one's sister at the age of fifteen. She hadn't slept with someone in twelve years, her bed-mates being her parents.

As Lillian felt Zoe's light breath on her face, smelled her minty breath through her freckled nostrils she felt secure. Yet she also felt...attacked? What was it that she felt? Was this what it was like to have a sister?

Lillian looked at Zoe's fair face that bore a soft smile. She looked so peaceful, so free from self-conciousness. Lillian couldn't help but be ashamed for at that moment, Lillian envied that face.

Desperate to get away from her confusing feelings, Lillian moved her arm away from Zoe and sat up. She gave a smile.

"Good morning Haoi Mi."

The musician gave a toothy smile as she raised a hand. "Good morning Lillian, thank you. How did you sleep?"

Lillian smiled. You're so cheery even though I know you didn't sleep a wink. "Pretty good, thank you." she turned to Amalija who had finished her prayer. "Good morning Amalija."

Amalija took a small bow. "Good morning Sister Lillian."

Lillian chuckled with a look a nervousness. "No need to be so formal Amalija." Lillian gave a shriek of fright as Isabella tightly wrapped her arm around her neck. "Where did you come from!?" Lillian croaked.

Isabella grinned widely, using her other hand to give Lillian a nuggie. "That's just the way Leej is! Gooood mooornin' Lilly!"

"Hey, hey, give it a rest." Lillian chuckled, short of breath.

Zoe groaned as she turned in her sleep. "This early Isabella!? Some of us need our beauty sleep."

"Oh come on Zoe, if you really need beauty sleep, you got it." responded Isabella.

Zoe sat up with a groan. "You say that now, but wait until the bags kick in like five minutes..."

Isabella, Zoe, and Lillian braced their teeth and fliched when Helene suddenly rose with a shrill laugh. "Good thing the magnificent Helene Francoise Delacroix is always at her peak beauty!" she cried.

Lillian jerked to her feet as Xaviera sprung up from her sleeping position with a roar as if she were a twisted jack-in-the-box.

"Some of us trying to sleep!" she cried, ironically rousing her fellow sisters to conciousness. One by one the remaining sisters rose, wiping the weariness from their eyes. Bisera stood up and stretched towards the beam of light.

The witches turned towards the large opening at the front of the treehouse as a giant bird flapped into the wooden structure, its black and white feathers with finger-like ends seeming to dwarf the bird's vulture-like body. Its bald, pink head seemed bore a gaze that Lillian couldn't help but think menacing. She figured she'd be used to Gaia and Ankur by now, yet they still ended up frightening her when she wasn't prepared.

The girls saw a purple rune circle appear on the ground before there was a brief flash of bright light. After the flash, Gaia stood clutching her black wand that served as a staff. Her smile was wide and bright enough that it could give the sun a run for its money.

Gaia clasped her hands together. "Oh, I see you're all up already! That's absolutely wonderful!" She then took long strides toward the bed, her staff falling behind her as she raised her hands up, palms facing the cieling. "Up, up, up! We have a big day my children! Let's get to the bathouses prompto!"

The witches made haste out of the bed due to their mother's cheerful urgency. Zoe couldn't help but cast a suspicious glance Gaia's way, earning her an even wider smile from Gaia.

Okay, something's definitely up... Zoe began collecting her garments from the trunk. She was about to get her last item when she heard Gaia's voice, halting her.

"Oh, almost forgot! No hats or boots today!" Gaia revealed. Zoe whirled around to see Gaia beaming. "Bows and sandals!" she exclaimed, holding out one of each of the aforementioned clothing items in her hands.

Ankur stepped forward. "Oh, and before you take your baths, I have some new soap to give you. I made it myself."

Lillian smiled. "Really? What did you use?"

Ankur's face immediately lit up. "Cinnamon, mint, cherry blossoms..." his face seemed to droop. "...you were just asking to be polite, weren't you?"

Lillian chuckled, shaking her head. "No, I really wanted to know."

Ankur folded his arms. "Well in that case..."

...

Lillian slid the black sandal up her small foot, the witch wriggling her toes as the black, soft divider rested between her large and second largest toe. She stood still as Bisera fastened the large black bow in her brown hair. Once the green-haired girl had finished her work, the bow nearly dwarfed its owner's head, appearing more like a flower sprouting from Lillian's head than a clothing article.

"You look great!" Bisera said with a grin, her hands behind her back.

Lillian returned the smile. "Thanks, you don't look too shabby yourself. What do you think about the sandals and the bow?"

"Oh my gosh, I love them!" exclaimed Bisera. Her happiness was infectious, for all the witches near Bisera seemed to be nearly as happy as she. "Since the bow and sandals let more of my skin show, I'm eating a lot more than usual."

Lillian nodded, "That's good." Lillian said, somewhat automatically. Bisera's answer had reminded her that Bisera had grown quite plant-like in a short time. Lillian wanted to ask how she remained so chipper, yet she held her tongue, for she feared such a question would be construed as being rude.

As Bisera walked towards other witches, Lillian sniffed the air, filling her with peace.

The soap bars that Ankur had created worked marvelously. On previous days, Lillian could smell the refreshing aroma of her fellow witches only when they were near, yet today their scent created large clouds of smell around them. Ankur had managed to craft a potent soap that coated the witches in a scent that was sweet, refreshing, spicy, soft, and strong all at once. More amazing was that despite the strength of the smell, it caused no feelings of naseua. Quite the contrary, Xaviera, who had the keenest of noses among her sisters, couldn't help but giddily sniff the other witches, practically crawling over them.

At first, I thought Ankur was just Gaia's lapdog, but he's really something else, isn't he? He's a bloody damn good chemist. Lillian took a deep inhale, holding her arm under her nose and tightly closing her eyes due to the heavenly smell.

Zoe approached her sitting sister and squatted next to her. "What's the news, Jude?"

Lillian looked up at Zoe, who was slightly taller than her. "Ankur's really good at making soap," she revealed.

Zoe leaned closer to Lillian. "Huh?"

Lillian held her hands out in an attempt to emphasize her words. "Ankur's really good at making soap. He's a really cool guy."

Zoe's suppressed laugh formed a snort sound as she shot Lillian an incredulous look.

Lillian shot up and folded her arms. "Oh, don't give me that look!"

Zoe finally let her laughter erupt as she followed her friend to her feet. "Come on Lillian, soap!?" she laughed.

"I'm serious, it's good soap. Maybe I could get lessons from him." At the sound of her friend continuing her laughter, Lillian groaned, whirled around on her feet and walked off toward the forest. After a few moments, Zoe's laughter petered off. The blond witch increased her pace until she was walking alongside Lillian, her bow flopping.

Zoe put her hand on her chest mockingly. "I'm sorry for laughing about treating Madame Byne's musings about soap in such a casual manner," she dramatically apologized, gaining a cheeful eye-roll from Lillian. "Seriously though, why do you think Gaia's so happy today?"

Lillian shrugged, biting the fingernail of her thumb until she felt a satisfying thunch, telling her the nail was free. She became red with embarassment as she realized Zoe was watching her. She quickly spat the nail away which only made her even more hot with inadequacy. "Dunno'," Lillian quickly shot, glancing away. "Maybe she thought of some new way to get the drop on the PES."

Zoe shook her head. "Mmm, I'm not too sure about that. Say what you will about her, Gaia doesn't like making us fight or at least doesn't act like it."

Lillian began to chuckle, her sides slightly shaking as she expelled air from her nose. A smile spread across her face. "Oh, I don't know," she teased. Her voice became calm, yet strong in an attempt to mimic Gaia. "I want the PES to smell the scent of justice!"

Zoe laughed. "First off, your beloved Ankur was the one who said that!" The two witches quieted down as they passed Felicia, Kajsa walking quietly beside her.

"Hey Felicia," greeted Zoe with a wave.

"Hello Zoe," greeted Felicia with a slight bow.

"How did you like the mission yesterday?" asked Zoe.

Felicia smiled softly. "It was quite interesting."

Lillian bit her lower lip. That's odd..she seems like a completely different person compared to yesterday.

...

Haoi Mi was in front of her sisters as they made their way to the clearing where they ate breakfast. The witch gave a gasp.

"Holy cow!" Her feeling of surprise was verbally expressed by the other witches as they entered the clearing.

That day, the long table where they usually ate breakfast was gone. In its placed were small tables with different food on each one. The tables were spread evenly across the clearing. Haoi Mi's eyes twinkled and her stomach growled as she hungrily scanned the area. She looked up at Gaia for confirmation.

Gaia and Ankur smiled as they sat on a large tree stump. Gaia waved her arm in front of her, the long white sleeve of her dress swaying. "Eat anything you want, but eat light and don't be too long."

Haoi Mi pumped her arms into the air. "All right!" she cheered. She toothily smiled as she eyed the table with bacon. She turned her head towards Xaviera whose body was taut as she stared at the same table. "Oh no! Don't you-" she began as Xaviera began walking forward.

"Shootshootshootshoot..." muttered Haoi Mi as she began power-walking towards the table, then sprinting as Xaviera began running on all fours.

The Vietnamese witch's face darkened in despair as Xaviera was about to make it to the table. She then gave a sigh of relief as Xaviera gave a surprised shriek as Afisa grabbed her by the ear, halting her.

"Why you do that!?" cried the young witch.

"Walk, don't run," Afisa simply replied, sternly.

"But I need to get to food!" cried Xaviera.

"Good little girls don't run."

Xaviera simply folded her arms with a pout and turned away. Haoi Mi took the oppurtunity to quietly tiptoe past her quarraling sisters.

"Mommy doesn't like bad little girls." Afisa added in deadpan as she squatted to get closer to Xaviera's level. Xaviera's shoulders slumped as she looked at Gaia who was still smiling. The thought of her actions making her mother stop smiling threatened to rob her of her appetite.

Afisa rose. "Besides, our sisters aren't doi-" she began, looking at the distant table where Lillian was stuffing her face with tiny hotdogs wrapped in golded biscuits. Afisa gave a sigh as she placed her palm on her face.

Xaviera giggled and pointed at Lillian. "See?" she asked, turning to Afisa.

The witches ate their breakfast, eventually standing close to Gaia who rose with a smile.

"I see you all have enjoyed breakfast. Well, follow me, we must be off," she said with a smile as she cupped her hands together.

"Off where?" asked Isabella.

"We're going on vacation." Gaia said giddily.

"Oooh," crowed Isabella.

Lillian raised an eyebrow. "Um, where are we going?"

Ankur folded his hands with a smile. "To the moon." Lillian turned to Zoe, for her friend practically shone with excitement as her eyes widened and her mouth slowly opened.

Gaia nodded, rising. "Yes, to see my sister Selene."

At those six words, the witches exploded with curiosity.

"Who is older?" asked Bisera.

Gaia folded her arms. "I'm about..." Gaia furrowed her eyebrows. "...one-hundred-thousand years older?"

"Whose prettier?" asked Helene.

Gaia chuckled. "Well, even though I believe I'm quite beautiful, Selene is much more lovely."

"Oh..." said Helene, somewhat disappointed that her mother wasn't the lovlier one.

"What's she like? Looks? Personality?" asked Zoe, eyes twinkling.

"She is as radiant as the moon itself," Gaia revealed with a smile, happy that Zoe was genuinely excited. "As for her personality, she is extremely free-spirited and spunky. Though you can learn more about her by meeting her yourself." 

"Then what are we waiting for!?" Zoe cried. "Let's go!" Zoe then ran towards the exit of the clearing, Gaia laughing as she, Ankur and the rest of the witches followed.

Zoe couldn't wait to go the moon and meet its avatar. When no one else was there for her, the moon always seemed to be shining down on her to comfort her. She remembered long nights where she'd lay on her roof, the moon her sun. Though she was beginning to warm up to Gaia, the moon would always feel like more of a mother to her.

Once Zoe ran out of breath and had to slow down, she still wore her great smile as the other witches caught up to her. She began humming one of her favorite songs. The song was an early 1950s song about the moon which she first heard from her boyfriend Joshua's record player. She warmly recalled them listening to it as the two gazed out at the beautiful full moon from his bedroom window.

Despite not knowing the words, the other witches couldn't help but hum the song as well, the group quickly forming a choir.

...

The PES sat in a semi-circle in The War room as Juan Carlos paced at the front of the room. Due to the events of the previous day, anxiety and tension filled the pregnant air of the room. Afwerki quietly tapped his foot under the table, wondering how Eziz was doing. He wanted to watch over him, but Juan Carlos had summoned them to a meeting and he didn't want to refuse his teacher.

Zack rapped his knuckles on the desk, the gloominess unsettling him. He turned to Akmal who ate a pill and drank water to help with his headache. Despite this pain, Akmal flashed Zack a thumbs up and a toothy smile, just barely managing not to wince. Thanks to Akmal's concealment of his pain, Zack simply smiled, satisfied in thinking that at least one person was still cheerful.

Juan halted in his tracks, his black and gray elevator boots suddenly stopping as if the man froze with fear. He turned towards his students, a small frown. "Good morning, let us begin," stated Juan Carlos. Behind him, the screen showed a feed from the previous day of the burning wreckage of GLORY.

"As you all are well aware, yesterday's mission ended in failure." Kola shook her head with a frown. If only she were there, then her beloved father would not have to gaze upon the hideous visage of defeat.

Sebastion gave an annoyed look as he stared at the dancing flames on the screen. So while I was here wasting my time with training, these imbeciles were being beaten by the witches. That bigheaded fool from Korea even got killed. If I was there, the witches wouldn't live to see another sunrise.

"The mision was terminated when Joshua decided to retreat." stated Juan, gaining a few moans from the PES.

"Of course you ran you sissy-ass bitch!" snarled Gojo as he slammed his meaty hand on the table and rose. He turned around to face Joshua, bitter hated in his eyes.

Akmal rose, threateningly stepping toward Gojo. "Hey, lay off of him, punk!" 

Sebastion growled lowly, finding the exchange annyoing.

Juan Carlos held up a hand. "Enough!" he hissed. "Joshua's decision was a strategic and wise one. Eziz was injured and Myung-Dae was dead. If he stayed, not only his life but the life of his remaining comrades would have been forfeit. He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day."

Gojo growled, still standing. "That ain't how we get down in Tokyo!"

"Well, maybe-" began Carmelo, his mouth full with a Twix bar, "that's 'cause we ain't fightin' a buncha' cops, pimps, and druggies who ain't payin' us back."

Gojo was about to retort when Juan cut them off, his voice much more forceful now. "Be silent lest I make you be silent." The Japanese psychic swallowed and folded his arms as he sunk down.

"Given the circumstances," he continued, "what Joshua did was commendable, however-" the screen changed to show two swords, one that appeared to be a mass of flames that took the shape of a heavily curved sword, and the other a giant two-handed sword that looked like a giant slab of rock with pale green runes adorning it. "We need to change the circumstances. These are two ancient psychic weapons, each only able to be wielded by its chosen champion. They were long thought to be lost, but after searching for many years I've finally discovered their locations. As great as I am, I unfortunately cannot wield either weapon. It is my hope that two of you nine could claim their power..."

Afwerki frowned, looking at the empty seat where Eziz would be sitting if he had the ability to sit up.

Luuk's eye's widened. "Wait, we're all going?" he asked.

Juan nodded. "Yes, though it's unprecedented, you all must go in order to increase our chances of having the blade's champion there."

"What about the witches? Will they just sit still as we go on our little scavenger hunt?" asked Andy, folding his arms with a frown.

Juan waved a dismissive hand. "Don't worry, we'll be free of them for a day."

Andy blinked in confusion before shrugging and slouching in his chair.

"The flaming sword to the left is the Flame Caller, and the one on the right is the Earthshaker," revealed Juan Carlos. "The meeting is adjourned. You are free to do as you please, but be at the Launch Hall in one hour." 

The PES got up from their seats and began walking towards the exit.

Juan turned to Kola who was leaning on the wall near the front of the room. Her arms were crossed over her chest. "Will you be joining us today?"

Kola swallowed and furrowed her eyebrows in thought. "I'm not sure. I'll let you know as soon as possible," she answered before following the PES.

Juan Carlos slightly raised his eyebrows as he watched his daughter walk away. Kola uncertain? This is new. I wonder what's bothering her...

See AlsoEdit

Consort of Illusion/Extras

Reflection of Illusion

CharactersEdit

PES
Gojo Joshua Carmelo Sebastion Akmal Afwerki Luuk Andy Eziz Zack
 
Witches
Lillian Zoe Xaviera Isabella Afisa Háoi Mi Bisera Hélène Amalija Felecia

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