It had been a few weeks since Brycen had started school. Major in Magical Defense. How to utilize abilities to be able to protect people from harm. Yes, considering the ratio of ability users to the general population, it wasn’t a big field, but there was a good number of normal humans who were interested in it as well.
Right now, though…the school felt strangely empty. The way the fall leaves swept across the sidewalk, the cold making her shudder, how the cracks in the ground seemed wider than before… Brycen buried her hands deeper into her jacket pockets. Where was everyone? Campus seemed so…dull, now.
“Are you Brycen?”
Brycen turned at the sound of the hoarse voice. A woman with dyed silver hair and dark makeup stood near the sidewalk, looking at her from underneath her black hood. A thin cloud of smoke trailed from her mouth. Probably had been smoking. Brycen would have named her the epitome of the word “gaunt”.
“Who are you?” Brycen asked, taking a step back.
“I’m Kendra,” the woman replied in the same hoarse voice. “You are Brycen, right?” She checked what looked like a photograph in the palm of her hand, or maybe a small notebook, and glanced back up at Brycen, probably trying to match up the description with the person. Same light brown hair, same unreadable eyes…
“What do you want with me?” Brycen asked, fully prepared to start walking backwards down the sidewalk. And she did, when the woman stepped closer.
“I just need your help for something, sweetie. Nothing big, I promise.”
“Um…me? Why me?” Brycen continued walking backwards. “I - I would rather not get tangled up in some shady work because - ”
She was about to elaborate on wanting to keep her scholarship when she bumped into someone behind her. She turned to see another woman with brightly dyed hair, large glasses, and wearing a patched coat, pushing a cart of flowers along.
“Oh my! So sorry about that, miss. Did I interrupt something?” the woman asked, when her eyes clearly said that she had bumped into them on purpose.
“And you are?” Kendra narrowed her eyes.
“Oh! How rude of me not to introduce myself. I’m Lonny! And you two must be Kendra and Brycen!”
“You been spying on us?” Kendra dropped her cigarette to the ground and crushed it with the back of her heel.
“Oh, no, I was merely passing by.” Lonny smiled widely. “Is there some trouble between you two?”
“That lady wants my help for some reason, but I ain’t got no money,” Brycen said, pointing to Kendra. “Why, do you want money too?”
“I may be a flower seller, but I’m not that poor,” Lonny laughed. “No. Kendra, are you trying to, ah…utilize this girl and her ability?”
“And what is that to you?” Kendra asked, reaching her hand into her pocket. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re nowhere in this picture right now.”
“But I soon will be!” Lonny grinned. “Come, now. Surely you don’t think you’re the only person in this city who wants this girl on their team?”
The corner of Kendra’s mouth twisted into an ugly frown. “What are you trying to hint at?”
“What I’m trying to say is…you won’t be getting this girl if I can help it.”
Kendra cursed and whipped out a knife, about to charge at Lonny. Brycen dodged out of the way. Lonny, however whistled, and down came a cloud of pigeons, attacking Kendra with their claws and beaks. Feathers and blood flew as Kendra tried to fight them off with her knife.
“You stupid bird girl!”
“Watch who you’re calling stupid!” Lonny called, standing a good distance away. “Bet you didn’t see this coming!”
Kendra broke free of the cloud, covered in bleeding scratches, and ran at Lonny, grabbing hold of her arm and twisting it, hard, pressing the knife to the back of her throat. “I don’t know what you’re playing at, Bird Girl, but I don’t like it.”
“Bird Girl? So that’s what you’re gonna call me, eh?” Lonny slipped out from her coat and Kendra’s grasp, backing away, still scanning for birds on the horizon behind her. “How rude. I even gave you my name.”
Kendra threw the coat down and charged at Lonny again, grabbing her by the wrists. Lonny kicked her in the stomach, then banged her skull against her head. Kendra stumbled back, but didn’t let go, and Lonny was dragged along with her.
“Pity neither of our abilities are really suited to fighting,” she hissed under her breath.
“You really think so?” Lonny tilted her head. “I’ve always got more birds up my sleeve.”
Just as Kendra swung her leg around in a roundhouse kick, two more birds, indeed, seemed to appear out of nowhere from behind Lonny. The began pecking at Kendra’s face, and she was forced to fight them off.
“I see you’ve done a bit of martial arts?” Lonny commented, stepping back. “Bet they never taught you how to fight against birds, eh?”
“I swear, I’m going to pummel you into the pavement one day,” Kendra growled, her hair a mess, her face still bleeding. “Just you wait.”
“Ooh, how threatening.” Lonny grinned, then turned to look for Brycen. “Hey, Brycen, how’s it - Where are you going?”
“Away from here,” Brycen said, already setting off at a fast walk. “I don’t need to be seen with you weirdos anymore. Keep away from me, you hear me? I don’t need any drama in my life!”
Lonny sighed, and let the birds fly away. “Pity,” she said. “Didn’t even hear me out.”
“Well, she didn’t hear me, either, so does that make it even?” Kendra pulled out a cigarette to light it.
Lonny chuckled. “Ah, sorry about the birds. If you’re still pissed about that. How do you do your makeup, by the way? It looks lovely.”
“I’m not talking to you,” Kendra muttered, moving away.
Brycen pulled her hood lower over her face. Yes, the world was still empty, but she definitely did not want trouble.