Bibiana threw herself on the bed with a sigh of relief. She was exhausted but satisfied about the success in dealing with her double life once more.
The girls had been looking for her all over the place, also during the break, and she... well, she had been able to trick them again with another excuse: she had supposedly gone to the principal’s office to warn everybody about the new monster. Nobody had actually asked the Principal and all the teachers had taken things into matter very fast. Two incidents in less than a week had become convenient opportunities for those students who hadn’t studied for that day’s tests, but the teachers’ lounge had become a chaos due to the delay they were carrying in some of the subjects. Long story short: everybody had skipped two hours because of the repeating fear of evacuating the school.
“Oh well... at least we’ve also skipped the Spanish test”.
She grabbed the mobile phone, still on the bed, and took a look at Viewtube’s suggestions to check that her epic fight showed up among the top videos of the day.
Choosing one with the title ‘Majorette and the Wind Titan’, she watched herself being gulped by the hurricane like a tiny ant by an enormous vacuum cleaner. She jumped to the next one to see the part when Jongleur and her were hanging from the whip. Finally, a third video, taken directly from the News, had recorded a bit of their last conversation.
“A Viewtuber” said the newswoman, “captured new images of the known superheroine Majorette with a mysterious man in a mask”. And so, the scene played on the screen.
“...keep it in mind, Majorette” he had said.
“We’ll see that... Jongleur” she had answered.
And the newswoman went on with her theories, repeating the same scene from different balconies or windows they had been spotted from.
“The stranger responds to the name of Jongleur and it is possible that our heroine...”
Bibiana stopped the video and dropped her arms, closing her eyes for a moment to recover some serenity.
Jongleur... she thought.
“Dealing with monsters and high school wasn’t bad enough that I also have to protect myself from him”.
Pipoh floated and sat next to her on the bed.
“I’m sorry that it’s getting difficult for you…”
Bibiana turned her body to face him.
“When we met… why didn’t you tell me that there were other Guardians apart from Majorette and Jester?”
“That…” he scratched his head in guilt. “I admit I should have done it but… at that moment, I didn’t think it was the best to say. You weren’t sure about accepting the mission and… if I had told you that all of them died in his hands…”
She then noticed that he had watering eyes and felt soft towards him.
“Would you tell me a little more about them? I mean, what they were like or… what they did. I’d like to know”.
Pipoh sniffled and calmed down.
“There’s not much to tell except what I already explained, but I do remember… when they were chosen. In fact, my Majorette...” and he changed the word “I mean, the one that came before you, wasn’t the first. Actually, there have been a lot of Majorettes along Circussa’s history, just as the other Guardians. The election of each Guardian takes place in a very special ceremony, where we, the Subguardians, hand that right over to the chosen ones…”
“Wait. Did you say ‘Subguardians’? In plural?” She leant her arms on the mattress and raised her head. “Then, there are more like you too”.
“Yes, Bibiana, there are more like me, but we’re not all the same”. He then started to mention the types. “There are wind pixies, like me; the fire ones, the earth ones, the water ones and… the primal-energy ones. Each Guardian has a Subguardian assigned depending on the element of their Game. And when the Games must change of master.... the Subguardians also retire”.
“You retire? As in… stop working?”
“Yeah, something like that”.
She got interested.
“But then… you’re also the substitute of another Subguardian?”
“Yes. You see… it’s a kind of neverending ritual that has been on since the beginning. The Subguardians choose the Guardians for the Games. And these Guardians choose the future Subguardians, for when the previous ones will leave. However, we all spend some time passing tests and training to verify that the selection was right and, in addition to that, the Council of Circussa must approve of us. If they don’t, we must let other candidates take a chance in order to achieve that honor”.
“How it was when you were chosen?”
He let out a giggle.
“A disaster, actually”.
She looked at him with questioning eyes.
“Well… to prove to the Council that I was worthy of the position, I had to do a small demonstration of my powers and… let’s say that… most of them lost their robes in the process”.
“Pft!” Bibiana held her laughter. “And they accepted you anyway?”
“Meh… it was the then-Majorette’s doing. She took pity on me and told them that I was just what they needed. I believe she called me something like… ‘a resourceful little guy’”.
Bibiana held her cheeks with her hands, her elbows on the mattress.
“It must have been cool”.
“It was”. Pipoh nodded and lowered his eyes in nostalgia. “And when I had to choose the new Majorette… I remember I was very nervous. I didn’t want to make a mistake, but I had found a person who inspired me with her honesty… and I wasn’t wrong”. He stared at her. “Just as I wasn’t wrong either when I chose you”.
Bibiana was surprised for a moment but her expression soon turned into a tender look.
“Thank you for believing in me, Pipoh” she said, smiling.
“Oh. Now that I think about it though…” she realised, “if you had already chosen a Guardian… and you’ve chosen me too… is it official? I mean, shouldn’t I’ve been chosen by the pixie that the previous Majorette had decided to…”
Pipoh shook his head.
“The fact is that the future Subguardians haven’t been chosen yet, so I’m still the only one that can name the Guardian of the batôn”.
“Ah… I see”.
“In any case” Pipoh added, “as long as Jester keeps threatening our worlds, there’s no way we can step forward. Without the other Subguardians… the chain is broken”.
Bibiana dared to ask him.
“Did Jester… kill them too?”
“I don’t know”, he admitted. “When I went through the portal I lost all contact with Circussa and I have no idea what happened to the others. I only remember that Harlequin was the last one standing before Majorette, because Didith brought us the message before running back to help her”.
“Didith?” She guessed it. “Oh. Another Subguardian?”
“Yes. Harlequin’s”, he completed. “She had the power of water, although… she knew how to give some good old tail kicks”.
Bibiana realised he was blushing and smiled, chin on her folded arms.
“You say that from your own experience?”
“Heh…” He scratched his cheek. “Let’s say that… in the training, she was tougher than she seemed”. After a short silence, he added: “I miss her… and Sasha, Totoh and Bubah… I wish things were back to the way they were before…”
His little face shadowed and Bibiana waited some seconds before reaching out and petting him with a finger.
“Hey, cheer up. Someday, we’ll fix this mess and you’ll be able to go back home. You’ll see”.
“I hope so”.
Far enough from there, beyond the park, Alexander was checking on his emails before starting the usual practice with the ribbons in his room. He wasn’t interested in all the spam he received, but… having seen the attention that Majorette had gathered on her first fight, he was curious to know whether someone would have uploaded something about him… And he wasn’t mistaken.
Viewtube was full of repeated videos of his intervention with the hurricane and even the moment he had parted ways with Majorette. That last one had convinced people to call him by his actual nickname instead of the ‘ginger guy in the mask’. That would have been a seedy name for a hero…
He held that thought. Hero? He wasn’t a hero. He had just given a hand to Majorette so they had been able to get out of the hurricane. Actually, if somebody knew about his real mission, he’d automatically become the enemy. People admired the girl in red because she fought creatures and they intended to see as much in him… but he wasn’t like that.
On the other hand, if Jester was right and Majorette was creating the monsters… he would indeed be a hero for trying to stop her, right? But… if she wasn’t aware and it was really Pipoh’s doing… was it unfair to consider her a heroine?
He recalled the pixie in the shape of a flying tissue and couldn’t but wonder. Was that pipsqueak really that capable to perform such a badass scheme? He had barely been able to help them with the hurricane. Either he was a great actor, or… he was completely the opposite of what he had in mind.
But also… if Majorette or Pipoh weren’t actually responsible for the monsters showing up… it meant that Jester had lied to him, no? Well, the man didn’t seem to know everything and, after all, he had implied that Majorette could be innocent, but… even though he had told him again and again that Pipoh was the bad guy in the story, Alexander couldn’t think the same after their first impression. However, he knew he couldn’t trust any of them and, right now, his brain was a mess. A big one.
He put his hands on his head, stressed about overthinking, and stood up to go bandaging his hands so he could start training with the ribbons.
As usual, he remained torso-naked and lifted himself to a certain height before gradually letting his body hang upside-down, tied to the silk, holding it on with his legs. He inhaled deeply and breathed the air out slowly, repeating the steps several times to clear his mind and leave all his thoughts aside. Thoughts that inevitably reminded him of the blondie in the red uniform.
The image took over his head for a second, paying special attention to her turquoise eyes and a smile that he found slightly appealing… When he realized what he was thinking, Alexander opened his eyes at once.
“What the heck… was that?” he whispered, feeling a weird and sudden warmth in his cheeks.
Then and without further notice, his feet lost the grip and he crashed into the floor with a loud howl.
He was lucky not to crack his head open.
Not far away from there, on the top of a building, Jester was waiting for someone to bring him his dinner. If he had survived until now, it was because of the feasts he ate in the evening, when most humans came back home, tired and ready to have a little nap before digging in. He just needed to subtly take control of their minds and tell them to dispose some food on their windows and balconies, and forget about it once they went back inside. He then reaped the rewards and ate them discreetly on an isolated roof, far from curious looks.
A window opened, filling the air with a nice and warm bowl of soup and some bead.
“There goes the starter” he thought, standing up.
When at the other side, he bent his body to catch the bowl and he sat down on the roof, slurping the liquid with his lips and biting the dry crust.
“Disgusting…” he muttered while chewing. He’d give everything to taste some of the crunchy and delicious cornbread he used to get in Circussa…
Suddenly, a new headache undertook him aggressively, making the bowl slip away from his fingers and roll until it fell down and crashed to the ground. Jester took his hands to the temples, clenching his teeth and whining, unable to control it. Once he felt his heartbeat racing up, he lay down and began breathing as deeply as his lungs made it possible, trying to regain control of his body with no success at all.
Minutes later, the caustic pain began to fade away. He remained steady, gasping for air until he was able to move again. It was clear now that it would take longer for him to recover.
He sat up with some effort and called the Diavolo to verify that it was still intact. The gem that united both halves was shining dimly, barely flickering.
The wizard took off one of his gloves and caressed it with long fingers, trying to feel the heartbeat inside.
“Patience…” he whispered. “I promise you’ll soon be fine again. You’ll see”.
His eyes were tinged by a strange sadness that faded away quickly, as if it was expelled by a major force. He gazed at the bright lights of the city and totally forgot about his dinner.
“You’ll see”, he whispered one last time.