The two nodded and assumed their fighting stances. Chiaki reached into her bag and produced a small glass bottle with green liquid, turning to Daytona and handing it to her.
“Here, take this. It should ease your pain momentarily, but you’ll need to see a nurse when we get to school.”
“Agh…Hm? Don’t you mean if we get to school?”
Chiaki scowled. “When we get to school!” she reiterated. “Now take that potion!”
“Y-Yes, ma’am!” Daytona sprang to life, opening the bottle cap and downing its contents in one gulp. In mere seconds she was strong enough to support her own weight again.
“Are you any good at long-range spells?”
“Y-Yeah, I can manage.” Daytona reached into her own bag and pulled a metal-plated glove over her right hand. “I’m good to go!”
“Good,” Chiaki smiled. She opened her spatial pocket and switched out her broom for a wand made from the branch of a white Everwoodian poplar tree. A bit old-fashioned for the modern witch, but Chiaki thought it suited her just fine.
The chimera slammed into Will’s barrier once more, shattering it before lunging at the four teens. Hotaru and Will charged, she went to the left, and he went to the right.
“Hit him with all you got, Hotaru!”
“Right!” She leaped forward, letting her mana circulate through her small frame before throwing a punch at the massive beast.
The blow landed clean on the chimera’s face, its body jerked back, but it remained on its feet, much to the surprise of everyone present.
Hotaru landed on her feet, bewildered. “What the…?”
“Don’t let up!” Will came in floating from the creature’s right, bringing his right leg down like an ax on its exposed abdomen. The impact forced the chimera’s legs to partially dig into the ground. Will floated backward, brought his fists together, and fired a beam of purple energy toward the chimera.
The creature cried out as the concussive beam overwhelmed it. It got down on all fours and the ground below began to give way.
Hotaru charged at the beast, clasping her hands together and striking it top its head, causing it to collapse, its body being pushed further into the ground by Will’s Gyro Blast.
Chiaki marveled at the quick work her friends were making of this creature of unknown origin, and a small part of her began to feel hopeful.
“Will, gimme a lift!” Hotaru ran over to the taller boy and jumped on top of his shoulders. Will, who was still keeping the monster at bay, managed to envelop his friend with his aura, shooting her up high into the air.
“Whoa!” Daytona exclaimed. “Are you sure they need us?”
Chiaki didn’t answer. She simply just stared in awe.
They really have become a lot stronger…and more organized!
Hotaru repositioned herself in midair, focusing her mana specifically on her arms, which took on a more toned appearance than normal. She floated directly over her target. As the purple aura disappeared, inertia began the process of bringing her back down.
With immense force, she slammed her fist into the creature’s back, the impact causing the ground to shake under them, and a moment later exploded in a cloud of dust and debris.
“Holy shit…Did she get it?” Daytona wondered, trying her best to peer through the billowing smoke.
When the dust cleared, atop the massive creature stood Hotaru standing proudly, a wide grin spread across her face.
“Heh, easy peasy!”
Will sighed, relieved to see that his friend was alright. “Hold it,” he warned. “Remember what Mr. Pete told us about monsters, A lot of them tend to play dead and wait for their prey to lower their guard. Check to see if it’s actually dead, first. And if not…”
He nodded. “Exactly.”
Hotaru crouched down and gave the chimera’s body a once over.
“Mmm, well, it’s bleeding blue stuff and it isn’t breathing, so I guess—”
The chimera rose back to its feet, its eyes producing a luminescent glow. An inky black substance emerged from its body, covering its wounds and in no time at all, the creature was fully healed. Truly, this was a monster beyond the pale.
“Whoa!” yelped Hotaru as she fell to the ground and rolled away from the creature. “Nevermind, then! What now?”
Chiaki held her wand aloft, her mana coursing through her.
The girls took their positions and cast their spells.
Their doublecant volley launched toward the chimera. And then all of a sudden, it did something that neither party would’ve accounted for.
“No friggin’ way…”
Their spells fizzled out. The chimera had wrapped itself in a protective barrier, its body covered in a familiar purple aura. Gyro aura.
Will’s eyes widened. “D-Did it just…?”
“It…It copied Will’s spell!” Chiaki couldn’t believe what she had just seen. If it could mimic Gyro magic, then could it possibly do the same with the spells they had just cast?
“This is bad…”
The creature then aimed its talon in their general direction. A split second later, a volley of fire was rocketing toward them.
It copied Fortis Ignis as well!
“Chiaki, look out!!”
There was a sudden noise and Chiaki was immediately swept off her feet. She turned to see who was carrying her. Her eyes met with Daytona’s, who narrowly evaded the fire spell at hypersonic speed.
Daytona then set her down several yards away. Chiaki glanced over at her.
“Damn,” Daytona panted, holding her back. “You’re a lot heavier than I thought you’d be. Guess you’ve got it where it counts.”
Chiaki’s face flushed. “E-Excuse me?!”
“Anyway, there’s something, I wanna try…” Daytona’s eyes flicked over to the chimera. “Oh, this might get a bit hazardous, so you may want to stand back a couple of feet.”
“Uh, sure.” Chiaki began walking backward. “But why? What are you planning?”
“Just a little something my da taught me…” Daytona bent her knees and placed a hand on the pavement, and a rippling blue aura encircled her body.
Electricity then surged around her body. The dust from the rubble ahead of them was being drawn towards her.
“What is she…?”
Chiaki and the others gaped at the phenomena unfolding before them. Dust particles were now swirling around Daytona's arms and fingers, transmuting and protruding into the form of claws. Daytona’s usual yellow-colored eyes had been replaced with a light blue color flowing with voltaic energy.
Did she just manipulate the iron in the ground into a makeshift weapon? Chiaki's brain was struggling to keep up with this new development. Electromagnetism was a common ability among Electro mages, but due to the skill's destructive potential, it was often reserved for mages with some experience.
Simply put, seeing someone as young as Daytona pull off such a feat was, for lack of a better word…shocking.
Daytona's iron sand claws were fully formed. She raised her head and stared up at the chimera.
Daytona zipped toward the creature without wasting another second, but it was even faster. Chiaki didn't even notice the creature move before it appeared above Daytona and swung its talons at her. As she feared, the chimera appeared to have mimicked Daytona’s speed as well.
Chiaki quickly raised her wand and focused her mana.
A barrier formed around Daytona's body, and the monster's claws made contact, the impact pushing its arms backward.
“Thanks for the save!” Daytona then zigzagged around the chimera, slicing at its torso in an 'x' formation with her iron sand claws. The creature, however, raised its talons to deflect the blue-haired girl's attack.
“Shit, I’m running out of time!” With her first maneuver having failed, Daytona slipped under the chimera, appearing at its rear, and buried her foot into its back.
“Oh, hell yeah! This is totally a weak spot!” Daytona grinned as she took her other foot and continued kicking the monster rapidly with both feet. “How do ya like this?!”
“Hey! Don’t hog ‘im all to yourself!” Hotaru wiped the dust from her uniform before sprinting over to join in on the action. She leaped forward and slammed her right knee into the creature’s plexus, causing it to lean forward. She followed up with a right-handed uppercut, forcing its head to jerk back.
“Let’s finish it off!”
As Hotaru and Daytona closed in on the chimera, it crossed its arms and a purple aura surrounded its body once more.
“This is bad…” Will rose into the air, raising his right hand. “Ugh! I can’t dispel it! How is it already this powerful?! Chiaki, it's going to emit a gyro pulse!”
“Oh, no!” Chiaki raised her wand. “Tutela!”
Just as Chiaki’s barrier spell formed around them, the chimera parted its arms, and a massive shock wave swept through the area, knocking all four teenagers back several feet. Chiaki's heart pounded in her chest, and her nerves were at an all-time high. This creature was getting to be too much for them. Even their most powerful attacks were proving ineffective. With running now out of the question, there wasn't much else that could possibly get them out of this mess. Except, perhaps...
Will’s grunt dragged her from her reverie. She watched as her battered and bruised friend quickly rose to his feet and resumed his fighting stance, his magical aura now rippling violently.
“Will, whatever you do, don’t cast any new spells! ” Chiaki called out to him. “It already replicated your barriers and my pyro spell. Now it has Daytona's speed and, more than likely, her electromagnetism!”
Will nodded. “Noted.”
“H-Hey, Daytona! What happened to you?!”
Chiaki turned around to see Hotaru inspecting Daytona. She jogged over to see what the problem was, and her jaw dropped as soon as she arrived.
“Oh, Mother have mercy…”
Daytona had crumpled to the ground. Her iron sand had worn off, but her face was now reddened, and her arms appeared to have second-degree burns.
“Sorry, mates…when I use my Electro magic for too long…I…tend to overheat, heh heh…Augh!!” She tried to smile, but even attempting that action seemed to cause her a great deal of pain.
Hotaru turned to Chiaki, her eyes gleaming. She uttered not a word, but her eyes spoke for her: Can you help her?
Chiaki made no hesitation. She lowered her wand and channeled her mana toward the injured girl. Daytona's injuries weren't too severe, and she hadn't been in this state for very long, so casting a Chrono spell seemed like the best option.
Miniature clocks materialized around Daytona, but just as the hands began to turn…
Will was attacked by the chimera, which thrust its large talon forward. He had just enough time to put up a barrier before being knocked off balance and sent tumbling.
“Will!” cried Hotaru.
The chimera took off quickly, continuing its charge. Its body was now completely engulfed in Electro mana. Its large right talon began to spin like a tendril, bringing it within yards of Chiaki and Daytona.
Chiaki was halfway through reversing Daytona's wounds when blood suddenly splattered across her face and clothes.
An awkward silence followed and Chiaki went completely still. The last thing she heard was her best friend crying out her name followed by a horrible sound. What happened? Did they manage to defeat the chimera? If so, why was it so quiet? As she began to turn her head, her conscience screamed at her.
No!! Don’t! Don’t look!!
Chiaki glanced over at Daytona, who was staring straight ahead with a horrified expression on her face. She then looked over to see Will wearing the same expression. What about Hotaru? She shook her head, silencing her negative thoughts. Turning to see what had the others in such a daze, she saw the chimera standing tall, its arm raised.
When she looked up, her heart sank. There she saw Hotaru, hoisted up in the air like a trophy, the monster's large talon protruding from her back. Blood poured from her wound, forming a massive pool on the ground below.
“—!” Chiaki dropped to her knees. Her body shook violently and she couldn’t fight back the tears. Her vision, the one she’d fought so hard to avoid had come true. Where did she go wrong? What reason was there to involve the ones she loved? Why couldn’t it have just taken her instead?
Why? Why? WHY?!
Chikai glanced up at the noise. Hotaru’s body had been dropped right in front of her. She began to hyperventilate. Her head felt as if it were about to split open.
She crawled over to her friend, her fingers carelessly digging into the rubble.
“Hotaru…no, no, no…Gods, please…not Hotaru…” Chiaki’s tears pelted Hotaru’s skin. Her now lifeless blue eyes were still bright and lovely. Here lay the girl who pulled Chiaki out of the darkness, who helped her in breaking out of her shell, who had stood by her through thick and thin. She was much more than just her best friend. She was a large piece of her world. And now…
…that piece had been devastated before her very eyes.
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