WILL’S MAHOGANY-COLORED EYES mirrored the lifeless body of the girl he’d known for much of his young life. Her long pink hair was soaked in the boundless pool of blood beneath her. Chiaki was still sobbing uncontrollably, her hands now clasped together in prayer. Daytona knelt beside her with a vacant look in her eyes. Will used this opportunity to form his Gyro Field around the girls, as he didn't want any further harm to come to them. The boy took one last look at Hotaru and time seemed to stand still. His breathing labored. This had to be a dream. A terrible nightmare that he would soon wake from. At least that was what he’d hoped for.
No…she can’t be…We haven’t reached our full potential…We haven’t broken our tie… She hasn’t even found her parents yet…
These thoughts triggered a memory from within his subconscious, seizing hold of him and obscuring his vision.
“Hey whatcha listening to?”
It was a day that Will would never forget: During his first year of primary school, he'd developed a habit of sitting alone during recess, having earned a reputation as a 'ticking time bomb' due to rumors spreading about his previous gyro magic outbursts. At the behest of their parents, no child dared to approach him for fear of triggering another gyro episode. This day, however, was different, for the first classmate to approach him willingly was Hotaru Hyakuya, a gnome-sized little girl with pink hair.
“I asked what you’re listening to.”
His heart pounded rapidly in his chest. He took a deep breath, temporarily quelling his anxiety, and spoke.
“O-Oh, um…J-Janice Crede…”
Her eyes lit up, raising his heart rate yet again. He didn't know what to expect from this girl, so even the slightest change in her demeanor made him apprehensive.
“Oh, so you like JC, too? My mom loves her! Whenever we’re doing chores, she puts her music on all the time!”
“Mm-hm! Can I sit with you and listen?”
“I mean if that’s cool with you.”
Will felt a wave of warmth wash over him. He'd never been spoken to so openly, especially not by someone his own age. He'd grown accustomed to being the outcast up until this point, but here came this girl, with such a simple action as coming up to him with a friendly smile.
He looked around, fearing that this was some elaborate prank devised by the other students, only to discover that everyone else was fully engaged in their various activities. He returned his gaze to her and nodded.
Will didn’t know how, but the girl’s bright smile had managed to shine through the dark cloud that hovered over him. She plopped down on the bench beside him and he handed her his right earbud.
They sat there in silence for the remainder of recess, enjoying the music.
Ever since that day, they’d been close. She introduced him to both her parents and Mr. Pete. They took him in when he had nowhere else to go. Treated him like family. No matter how many episodes he had, she was always there to calm him; even teaching him the calming technique her father used on her.
“Aw, come on, Willy! You wanna be a patrol officer, no? Don’t tell me that’s all you got!”
“Of course, not! I can still go. Bring it!”
“That’s the spirit! I know you’re capable of more. Now, on your feet!”
When training, she’d push him to do his very best, playing a pivotal role in him finally gaining better control over his powers. He may very well have gone on to become the second coming of his father if they’d never met.
Though Will was loath to ever admit this to her personally, deep down, despite being the same age, in some aspects, Hotaru was a lot like an older sister to him. But now…
“Hey, Will. Do us a favor and keep an eye on our girl, okay?”
…all of that had been taken away. And as Hiroto Hyakuya’s last words to him came flooding back into his subconscious, Will’s body grew hot and he began to shake, his eyes welling up with tears.
“Her heart’s always in the right place, but sometimes she’ll bite off more than she can chew. I can see how much you cherish her, and I’ve no doubt she feels the same way…”
His gyro mana rushed through his pores, bursting outward like magma from a volcano or some other natural phenomenon.
“So, take care of each other, alright?”
In less than a second, he was upon the chimera with blinding speed.
His fist slammed into the creature’s face. This was followed by a powerful gravitational pull that sent his target back several yards.
Will didn’t let up. He flew over the chimera as it was still airborne, crossing his arms before releasing them, unleashing his Gravitational Downforce and crushing the foul creature beneath the weight he generated.
I failed them…
I failed her!!
Over and over Will generated a powerful pulse, crushing the chimera and deepening the crater that was forming around them.
Upon unleashing the next pulse, blue blood began to ooze from the monster’s orifices. But the sooner the afflictions came, the sooner they healed. The chimera gained purchase by pressing its foot against the center of the crater before channeling its newfound gyro aura.
Shit! It’s pushing back!
Will was pushed back several feet by the impact, and he landed on his feet before sliding against the concrete.
It’s not good enough! I need more power!
He didn't waste any time closing his eyes and channeling his aura. His rage, his grief, and even his feelings of love and affection. He needed to mediate these emotions in order to properly control his Gyro Field. He channeled these bottled-up emotions into his mana pool. When the merge was complete, his eyes flew open, a gyro aura flowing from them.
With both feet, Will kicked against the air, propelling himself toward the chimera with greater ferocity than ever before. He aimed his palms in the direction of his target, creating another gyro barrier around it. He then took his fingers and slowly curled them, attempting to crush the monster within the confines of the enclosed space.
The creature then spread its massive wings, breaking through the barrier with shocking ease.
Dammit, stay down!!
He landed before the creature. His aura was becoming increasingly ferocious, and as he approached the monster, the ground around him began to tremble. His gaze was fixed on the creature’s, and the longer he stared, the more enraged he became. With the dramatic increase in his mana circulation, it became more and more difficult to control.
“Ugh!” Will’s body began to ache all over as magical energy coursed through him like a chaotic storm. Various thoughts and feelings washed over him. Nothing he’d tried so far had worked. He'd sworn to himself since he was a child that he'd be nothing like his father, but at this point, he no longer gave a damn. If it meant avenging her, if that’s what it took…he’d do just about anything…even if it meant letting his rage take over completely.
Will unclenched his hands and his aura began to consume him.
“I mean, of all the kids in our class, why’d you choose to hang out with me?”
Will waited for her answer with bated breath. Surely a girl as interesting as her could easily make friends with the other kids, but she’d risked all of that just to be friends with the outcast. No matter how much he thought it over, it didn’t make any sense to him.
“Because you and I are more alike than you realize. I know how it feels to be feared by others.” She looked down at her tiny palms. “To even fear yourself. When I first heard about you, I’ll admit was a bit scared. Like, ‘Yeesh, I’m gonna have a classmate like that?’ But when I actually met you, I saw someone who was just like me: scared and alone. Actually, before you, I’ve never even had any friends, other kids’ parents said I was too dangerous.”
“Wait…” Will could hardly believe what he was hearing. “We’re f-friends?”
“Huh?” Hotaru raised an eyebrow before chuckling lightly. “Oh, silly Willy, of course, we’re friends!”
“Huh. And you’ve never had any before… S-So that makes me…your first friend?”
She smiled. “Mm-hmm! The first of hopefully many more! And they’ll all be your friends, too!”
“Hm. I see. I don’t know about that last part, though.”
“Heh, heh, heh. I’ll make a social butterfly outta you yet, mister!”
That memory with Hotaru flashed through his mind’s eye. What he wouldn’t give to hear her voice once more. Now completely engulfed in a vast wellspring of gyro mana, he brought his attention back to the chimera and raised his arm, preparing to collapse the ground around them, but then…
A familiar voice called out to him. It was high-pitched, yet fierce at the same time.
There’s no way…
The voice called out to him again, and before he knew it, a small hand grabbed his left fist and squeezed it. Suddenly, his mana’s hold on him began to wane and his eyes returned to their normal brown color.
His eyes widened in shock. It can’t be…That voice… When he looked down, he noticed a pink-haired girl laying on the ground behind him. Her large eyes were as bright as the ocean, and they returned his gaze with purpose.
Will’s breath caught in his throat. His attention was drawn to the long trail of blood smeared across the pavement, which stretched all the way from the Gyro Field to him. She…crawled over here, He thought. She then grabbed his forearm with her other hand and used him as support to lift herself to her feet.
His gaze traveled down to her plexus, the location where he, Chiaki, and Daytona all witnessed the creature drive its large talon. Her blouse, like the majority of her hair, was still stained with blood, but her wound...
His mind was racing. The chimera had killed her. He saw it. They all saw it. How could Hotaru possibly be standing before him? Necromancy? No. There was no trace of gauntness or paleness to speak of, so it couldn't be. Her skin was still as fair and radiant as it had always been.
An illusion spell, then?
As soon as the thought began to register, he noticed the girl’s smile. And suddenly, any fraction of doubt he once had quickly vanished from his conscience. Her reassuring smile, the warmth of her touch, and her refusal to stay down despite the punishment she received. He'd spent far too much time with her to know that these characteristics couldn't be replicated by a mere illusion. All signs pointed to this girl being the genuine article.
He squeezed her hand back, just to be sure this wasn’t a fever dream.
“Mm-hmm!” Her smile grew wider. “I’m here. So, please…breathe.”
Will took a deep breath and his aura fell back into a calm state. His eyes then flicked over to Chiaki; perhaps she noticed Hotaru was barely clinging to life and figured out a way to heal her after all.
However, this theory was put to rest upon seeing the young witch’s face; she, along with Daytona, was staring back at him and Hotaru with an expression of mingled astonishment and horror.
“H-H-H-Hotaru…” Chiaki had emerged from the Gyro Field, her voice was brittle and her lip quivered as she staggered over to them. “Is that…is that really you?”
Hotaru turned to her best friend and gave her a warm smile. “Y-Yeah…Sorry for scaring you guys back there.”
“Hotaru!!” Chiaki ran over to her and wrapped her arms around her. “I thought we’d lost you forever!” she whimpered, pulling back from her and examining her wound. She then said what they’d all been thinking, “B-But…how is this…possible…?”
Daytona stepped through the Gyro Field. “Y-Yeah, seriously! You nearly gave us a heart attack!” Scowling, she folded her arms, but the bags under her eyes were red and puffy, indicating that she, too, had been crying. “When you started moving all of a sudden, we’d thought the godsdamn thing had turned you into an undead or something!”
“Huh? You didn’t hear us screaming, Will? We were proper loud.”
Will’s Gyro Field did more than just protect against physical and magical attacks, it also contained sound, so he wouldn’t have heard any sort of commotion as a result of Hotaru’s supposed return to the realm of the living. However, he, too, shared the girl's feelings and sought answers, but Hotaru simply shook her head.
“Look, I’m just as confused as you guys. I promise we’ll talk about it later, but first…” She let go of Will's hand and returned to her fighting stance. “I need to get my lick back!”
She was right. If they didn't make it out alive, there wouldn't be much to talk about. Will was as surprised and intrigued as the others, but he understood that survival came first, so he nodded and assumed his stance as well.
“Let’s do it!”
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