Hullington Public Park was still empty at 7:46 in the morning, so the five friends had the battlefield all to themselves. Hotaru and Goldie were positioned on opposing sides. Will stood in the box reserved for referees. Chiaki and Daytona stood off to the side, the former was still voicing her protestations.
“Ugh! Come on, you two…” Her gaze shifted between the two combatants. “We seriously don’t have time for this!”
Neither of them responded. They continued to lock eyes with one another. Realizing that neither of them would budge, Chiaki heaved a long, irritated sigh.
“You guys have five minutes,” Will stated. “The first to break the other’s barrier is declared the winner. Are these conditions satisfactory?”
“So these two are longtime rivals, eh?” Daytona marveled, amazement in her eyes. “Ooh, this is so exciting!”
Chiaki hung her head. “I’m glad one of us thinks so.”
Will glanced over to Hotaru and then to Goldie before raising his hand. “Alright, combatants, take your stances and cast your barriers!”
A cerulean light enveloped their bodies. Seconds passed and it quickly faded. This was to prevent either party from fatally wounding the other. Until around eighty years ago when this spell was first implemented, students fighting to the death was commonplace.
Goldie drew his athame and held it at midheight. His right sword hand and right leg were extended forward. In his slightly lowered left hand was a brown wand, used for casting his spells and enchantments. Hotaru took a deep breath and assumed her typical fighting stance.
“May the best mage win, Ms. Hotaru.”
“Oh, piss off, blueblood!” She hissed, pointing at him with purpose. “I’m gonna send your ass packing right back to Bevenhome where you belong!”
“Heh. I’m glad to see that you haven’t lost that competitive fire.”
She blew a raspberry at him, which only served to make him chuckle.
“Ready?” Will exchanged looks with them once more before dropping his hand. “Begin!”
The duel was now underway. Hotaru channeled her mana into her legs and charged. With her immense strength enhancing her speed, she was upon the boy in mere seconds. She threw a punch, aiming for his chest, but he was ready for her. Goldfinch quickly stepped to the side and immediately cast a geo spell, a pillar erupted out of the ground, right under Hotaru’s feet, and launched her into the air.
The Goldster then held his athame aloft tapping the blade with his wand. The pillar dispersed and its remains floated in front of him, forming platforms. He quickly ascended the makeshift staircase and swung his athame at the still airborne Hotaru.
“Oh, no you don’t!”
Hotaru raised her leg and the blade clashed with the sole of her foot. Had it not been for the barriers, she probably would’ve just lost a leg. She pushed against the blade, propelling herself backward, and landing on her feet.
Goldie landed across from her. A grin plastered his face.
“My, my. Your reflexes have certainly improved, Ms. Hotaru.” He then brought his blade to the ground. “Let’s see how you handle this!”
Suddenly, the ground under him rose, forming another pillar that rose high into the air. He stood atop the pillar's flat surface and held his wand aloft.
“I invoke the power of Marina, child of Shamu. O’ Ruler of Oceans, grant me your wondrous waves…” An aqua sprite appeared beside him. It bore the appearance of a merrow, and its skin was as blue as Hotaru’s eyes.
He’s already contracted a new one?
Goldie then waved his wand toward his athame, and aquatic mana swirled around it.. “...Geyser!!”
A blue sphere formed around his blade and unleashed a powerful stream of pure spiraling water down at the ground, creating massive dust clouds. The geyser spell then began to move up towards Hotaru. She maintained her composure, harnessed her mana, spread out her arms…
…and quickly brought them back together, her open palms creating a thunderous clap. Shock waves emitted from her hands, sweeping through the dust clouds and dispersing them.
“Oh, not bad at all!” Goldie praised. “You’re enough to create shock waves now. Truly magnificent, Ms. Hotaru!”
Their last bout wasn’t even three months ago and they both were already much stronger than before. They’d spent the entire Summer break working on their craft. And all that time training was beginning to show tremendous results.
“But that’s not all I can do.” Goldie twirled his wand. “Come, Marina!!”
Suddenly, fords of water emerged from within the geyser and quickly morphed into various copies of the aqua sprite she’d seen previously. The Marina copies swooped for Hotaru. The haste at which they moved left her little time to evade.
Damn! There’re too many of them!
She dodged one, then two more, but then the last three surrounded her, their liquid arms turning into scythes in the blink of an eye, and slashed her barrier.
The barrier briefly flashed red before returning to its original blue and dimming once more. The troglodyte had landed the first successful hit.
Dammit! I need to get away!
Just as the sprite clones went in for another round of swings, Hotaru ducked and somersaulted through a gap between her assailants.
“Hah…hah…hah…” Panting heavily, she glanced over to see the sprite clones in pursuit. They immediately continued their ambush, swiping and slicing at her with no intention of stopping until their target was defeated. Hotaru did her best to evade their attacks, but there were far too many of them. Three aqua scythes made contact with her barrier, then two more.
“Damn, they’re too much for her!”
Hotaru’s friends watched on as she continued to struggle against Goldie’s brand-new aqua sprite magic. Overwhelmed by this unexpected onslaught, frustration began to fester.
I won’t lose to him! Her conscience screamed at her. I won’t! I won’t! I won’t!
A surge of heat rushed through her. She let her mana flow throughout her entire body, tightening the muscles in her arms and legs. She stretched her arms out once more. If she used a little more force in this next clap, it might be enough to wipe out the aqua sprite clones. But before she could act…
…an ear-splitting roar echoed throughout the park and the five friends whirled around to where the chimera’s carcass had been, only to find the pieces of its remains (including its blue blood) levitating and connecting back to its torso.
“You’ve gotta be joking…”
“Aw, dammit!” Hotaru clicked her tongue. “Goldie, I thought you killed this thing! Looks to me like you just unlocked its second health bar!”
“I-I could’ve sworn I did!”
“Gods, this is frustrating…” Will’s purple aura flowed around him. “If John’s Ventus couldn’t finish it off, then what will?”
The five of them took their respective stances. The creature’s restoration was complete. Just as it swooped down toward the group…
BLAM!! BLAM!! BLAM!!
Gunshots rang throughout the park. Three mana-engulfed bullets pierced the chimera’s chest. Blue blood poured from its gaping wounds.
Letting out a final cry, the creature fell to the ground. Dead. But neither of them was convinced. They stood there in silence, spells at the ready, fearing that it would get back up any second now.
“No worries. It’s dead for good, this time,” said a raspy voice. The kids turned to see a man standing in the nearby shrubbery, holding a firearm with a long Casull barrel. “All artificial creatures have a ‘core’ or something to sustain their life force. You sever that, and it’ll be as dead as a doornail.”
The man was tall and looked to be somewhere around his mid-thirties. He wore a gray suit under a long black trench coat. On his head was a matching fedora with a gray ribbon. Residual blue smoke (mana particles) still billowed from his weapon. He raised the barrel to his mouth and blew it away.
“And I made sure of that.”
“Hmm…” Hotaru narrowed her eyes. Something about this man seemed familiar.
The man stepped out from the bushes and sauntered over to the battlefield, passing by the five teens, and over to the chimera’s body. Putting his gun away, he then dropped to a knee, sticking his index finger into the pool of blue blood, and brought it up to his face, eyeing it for a moment. He pressed his thumb against his blood-covered finger before separating them and the chimera’s blood began to stretch like some kind of slimy substance.
The kids gawked at the man for a while as they were still processing his sudden appearance.
The man heaved a sigh. “Ahh. It’s just as I thought…I need to let Val know about this ASAP.”
“Um…what’s happening?” Daytona was the first to break the silence.
“Th-Thanks for saving us, sir,” Chiaki said, visibly nervous. “M-Might I ask who you are?”
The man arose and turned to face them. “Hm? Oh. You kids are still here?” He reached into his coat. The suddenness of his movements made the teens flinch. The man stopped, noticing their apprehension.
“Relax, relax,” he chuckled, pulling out a star-shaped badge embellished with blue, white, and gold embroidery. Gleaming in its center, was a capitalized G insignia. “The name’s Inspector Rick Gamma. Interdimensional Detective. Leader of the Gamma Squad.”
“Rick…” Chiaki blinked
“...Gamma…” Goldie finished.
They all let that name settle for a spell before realization finally struck them and their jaws collectively dropped.
“““““The Gamma Squad?!”””””
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