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Star Guardian

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  • Star Guardian

    Chapter 1
    “Hey is this thing on? Okay.” A young girl, about 11 with dark pink hair, as if dyed came in front of the camera. She sat down, bringing her face to the camera, her eyes also bad a pinkish color to them in the iris. “My name is Naomi Whitaker. I am the star guardian… This probably isn't the way you should find out but… I fight evil. Every week or so me and my four friends, the ones with the dyed-” For a minute it looked like she wanted to interrupt herself, clear up something, but decided against it. “It looks dyed anyway. We have been protecting Harverton county from… Monsters. The recent uptick in suicides was them, and the drop after was us.” She fishes around in her pockets for something, eventually bringing it out. A cell phone, or so it looked, colored bright pink “We fight the darkness, it takes advantage of people's insecurities, and turns it into a weapon against others, we fight them with these.” she puts it down.


    “Maybe I should have rehearsed this…” she said, before being reassured from someone off screen “You're doing great! Better than poor Jasmine will.” “Hey!” Naomi giggled seeing the two bicker a bit. She managed to release tension she didn't realize had been building. “Anyways… The Darkness has gotten to this world. This reality. And if we don't stop it in ten days… Everything is gone. I don't know if… If…” She trailed off. “If the worst happens, I want my family and friends to know what happened. I promise I won't let the Darkness eat us…” A few seconds pass. “You probably don't believe me.” She said, getting up, walking back, and appearing to strike a pose with her cellphone, before opening it up, raising it to the air, and yelling out “STARRY SKIES! STAR GUARDIAN, REVOLUTION!” Before seeming to be encased in light. Before falling away, revealing the girl, now with bright pink hair that almost glowed and now came down to her waist, still neat and clean, and changing from a normal jeans and hoodie into boots, a skirt, a uniform, all with the main colors of pink, black, and white. “Sorry for not saying something sooner.” She said, standing there a bit. “Jasmine, you wanna go next?” She then said.


    That was… 14 Years ago. I'm 25 now and my name is Naomi Whitaker. About thirty minutes ago I was defending a planet from an absurdly large mining drive. Something about the materials being valuable. I didn't really understand it, I just assumed it was like gold or oil there. I blew it z


    I returned back home, back to my world. Back to my city. Much as I enjoyed helping others, it didn't exactly pay the bills… I came down to Earth, coming to a stop, listening for other people, my ears in this form were good enough to catch a mouse trying to hide. No one. Alright, and there's the wheelchair. Yeah I forgot to say, I'm Paraplegic. No function below the waist, my spine… Got messed up in the final battle against the Darkness. Honestly in hindsight I'm just glad that I didn't get hurt worse, and the others didn't suffer anything like that.


    I rolled the wheels down, it was just a thing I could collapse and stuff into the back seat of my car. Once I opened the door, lifted myself inside, and collapsed the wheel chair before throwing it in the back. Then I look at the dashboard, the hand throttle and the knob on the steering wheel. As I said, paraplegic, ended up learning how to drive like this.


    I went back home. I had an apartment on the first floor, it was about as cheap as I could get on a secretary’s salary… even then I… I couldn't open my door. Tried again a few times.


    Nada.


    Then I noticed a slip underneath the door, and opening it…


    Damn it. Stupid. I forgot. I needed more money, maybe get an advance once I get a job… I Tried to ask for an extension the other day… And now I'm staring at an eviction notice.


    First thing is first, I need to find my stuff… Then a homeless shelter. Going around I see my stuff out by the back entrance, not too far away from the garbage. I suppose at least someone was nice enough not to throw it out, probably Benjamin, he was nice to me.


    I took my stuff in the bag, and rolled out back to my car. I'd need to get to a place early if I wanted somewhere to sleep…


    First shelter, already full.


    Second shelter, same.


    ...I was considering a third shelter but… What’s the likelyhood? It wasn’t going to get any earlier, and most of them had already made it… The gas I'd be spending as well to get over there, then just end up sleeping in here? I'll just skip that for tonight.


    I took the keys out, it was warm enough tonight, I crawled in the back and just closed my eyes in the back seat, using it as a bed. Hopefully I wouldn't get in trouble for just parking here and sleeping.


    Next morning… I feel bad about this honestly, but I called Hitomi. Along with the four others we ran as the star guardians. “Hey Hitomi!” I said, hiding my own guilt about making the request. “Naomi! How’s it going?” She chirped back at me. “Ah, it’s going.” I said “What about you?” quickly trying to pass it by for now, maybe it was a better moment there to tell her I lost my apartment but I didn’t want the conversation to go so heavy so quickly. “Oh it’s been terrible, remember Rodriguez? I found out a while ago that he was cheating on my with another woman. From the same woman in fact. I guess one girlfriend wasn’t enough for him... Men.” She said, I could practically hear her eye rolling in that moment. The moment continued on as we caught up, just things in our lives, she told me about this research assignment she was being sent on, an old ruin in Canada, how it might be another viking settlement. She always loved Archeology, so I couldn’t help but be happy.


    Admittedly now felt as good a time as any to ask after she talked so much about the situation, going over almost every detail of the conversation at a million miles per hour. I loved hearing her get so excited about this, even if I felt a bit like a failure in comparison. “Hey, Hitomi… I have a huge favour to ask.” Each word just sort of, stumbled out of my mouth, I wanted to take it back but I already began. May as well finish.


    “I got kicked out of my apartment.” Silence on the other end, I knew she was there feeling pity for me. I… I didn’t like that feeling admittedly. I mean… I was their leader wasn’t I? Now… I kind of feel like the loser of the group. The one friend that asks for a loan and promises they’ll pay it back later. I really don’t want to be that person. “I…” “You can live at my house.” “Nonono! I couldn’t ask that, I just needed to shower for work, even brought my own so-” “Naomi, I can’t just let you live in that car, it’ll ruin your back and-” She caught herself. “Seriously it’s fine, I’ll just rent another apartment later-” “Look, if it makes you feel better I won’t be around here, you can house sit it for me if that makes you feel better.” I didn’t say anything for a while… But… Rent was expensive… I just…


    “If you insist.” I said, defeated. She was probably going to tie me down to her house if I didn’t. “I’m still looking for a place to stay, but I can house sit.”


    I drove straight to her house. If I was quick in the shower I wouldn't need any co-workers to cover for me. Once I arrived I saw her, her hair dyed black from the resting dark green of usual, outside the door. She came over as I parked in the driveway, she was already on it, opening the back door and setting up the chair for me, reaching out for me and placing mr in the wheelchair. “Here, I'll get you to the shower.” “That's fine Hitomi I really can't ask that of you.” Please pick up on what I'm feeling.


    It's the one thing I hated the most about this situation. Hitomi must pity me without my legs. I want to yell at her but can't bring myself to either. She’s still really earnest and all she wants to do is help, I feel guilty for getting mad at her. So I just bottle it up and wait until later. She wheels me straight to the bathroom, shows me the soaps and shampoos, leaving them on the shower floor for me. Looks like she pulled out a step stool for this, and already set on the shower. “Alright…” She said before looking questioningly and… “I ca-” I interrupted her, “Hitomi it's fine. I prefer doing it myself.” Maybe too forcefully in hindsight, hearing her say “R-right.” She got up and made her way out, before she left though, I reached it and drew her into a hug “Thanks.” I really meant it, even if I found her babying frustrating, she was still one of the kindest people I knew. She hugged me back, kissed my head, and said “No problem.”


    Time to shower, now that she closed the door behind her. I had two towels, one I'd take, throwing it over the shower door, and the other, I took out after I got myself down from the wheelchair, leaving it near the shower stall, with a towel on the seat. Soap, lather, each leg individually, rest of body, shampoo in hair, then conditioner, finished. Turn off the shower faucet, start reaching, draw in the towel, dry, crawl over and get in my wheelchair. Wheel myself over to my bag of belongings, and put on my suit. Do up my hair in, a side ponytail, bit of a bang, with my wavy pink hair I had to sort of play into it. If I didn’t I’d just look strange with pink hair, even if it wasn’t neon pink pink.


    Well, I’m about as ready for the day as I’m going to be. I wheeled myself out, Hitomi left, leaving a note saying she went to work to prepare for the expedition… The key was on the note, to the house I had to assume. I took it, and we wheeled out of the house and locked the key… Alright. To my work then. Big office building for Sung co. It’s a private pharmaceutical company, I was going to apply for a position as executive assistant, basically secretary.


    There it was, I wheeled in, a about a dozen or others with me. Just wait, about four were called before me. I wheeled myself in… Maybe I should've asked Hitomi for glasses, glasses always make women seem professional right? Too late for doubts, I was face to face with the man deciding my fate.


    “So… Ms. Whitaker is it?” Stifle that personality Naomi, you need to act professional now. “Yes sir. I'm here for the position of Executive Assistant. Nice to meet you Mr. Caples.” I extended my hand to shake his, and smiled. They like it when you smile. He waited a moment before shaking my hand, did I overextend myself here?


    If I had, he didn’t show it, the interview continued as normal, I think I did well… Then they got to another question. “So. Ms. Whitaker? You've been out of work for… Five months now?” God I hated that. And I hated not having a good excuse, what was I supposed to say? I kept landing interviews but on the day of something bad happened on the other side of the galaxy? I just had to use a lame excuse. “That was time for self reflection.” “...Five months, and now you apply here for a job.” I'm toast. I'm dead. He's already dismissed me based on those five months.


    It was then when another man came through, he was big with a blond beard, seemed older and a bit boisterous. This was the man who’s EA position I was applying for. He came in and asked “Caples! How is it going, have you found anyone?” Maybe I can still salvage this. Mr. Caples was clearly annoyed by the interruption but... “Mr. Coppola! It's a pleasure to meet you!” I extended my hand, smiled at him best I could, not too big as to look fake, but glad to see him. I couldn't mind Mr.Caples right now, he was the boss. Maybe…


    Mr. Coppola responded “Oh hello! And you are…” “I’m here, interviewing to be your personal assistant. I hope you find me to your liking.” I said, before giggling. He seemed to like that. “Well then Miss Whitaker, pleasure to make your acquaintance!” He shook my hand with both of his, and leaning down to kiss it, I giggled as he did it again. I was a bit flustered, honest! It's just… I didn't see any reason to stop myself exactly, I needed a job. Not having one and missing every interview to get one up ‘til now ate into my savings. I had very little to buy groceries. I needed this job, and if just a tad of flirting let me have the job…


    Thank goodness he interrupted when he did. I just hoped I made a good impression on him. He'd remember and ask for me maybe and I could prove I was adept at this job.


    As I left the building questions swirled in my head. Did I make a mistake? Was I going to get a callback? Oh god what if I did but Mr. Coppola wanted a side piece instead of an assistant? I was desperate but the last thing I wanted was to deal with someone who thought they owned my body. And what if he didn't call back thinking I was some bimbo trying to sleep my way to the top?


    I had to clear my head, this wasn't helping me. I need to do something else. I rolled down to my car. Unlock it, open it, and entered, folding it, bringing it in. I needed to go to a place where I can clear my head. I went to that old tree, a clearing in the forest that we used to go to. With a small path leading towards it, I stopped at the edge, stripped to my undershirt, changed my skirt to shorts, got my wheelchair, set it up, moved myself out of the car to it, rolled out, and made my way to the path. The forest was as thick as I remembered.


    Protected by magic, no one ever really spread out to it, I didn't ever really understand it to be honest. I just knew it was safe from prying eyes, heck, before I had gained these powers, I always remembered I had something else to do. Only other people here would’ve been me and the other Star Guardians.


    I wheeled in, experiencing the local wildlife, eventually coming to the old tree, I continued wheeling myself forward, stopping at the tree. I just got down, and laid down on the ground, looking up. I loved this place, the flowers here were so beautiful. On the city I always felt self conscious about my hair, particularly in business, coning here, seeing the array of colors, violets and reds and yellows, brilliant greens and reds, every color was so vibrant. I utterly at home.


    I should stay here for a while. Just here, looking at the sky. It's so beautiful from here. At peace. I closed my eyes, just for a moment. A moment turned longer than that, and I slept for a while until being woken up, I opened my eyes and it was Nara. “Hey.” “Hey…” I responded, my eyes quickly closing. “Oi Naomi, are you doing alright?” I held her hand. “I'm fine, I just finished a job interview. I was worrying myself to a stupor and came here to clear my head.” I then just brought my head closer to her, looking her in the eye, just inviting her down here.


    She laid down with me as well, and I asked “What about you?” “Competition is tomorrow.” “You'll do fine Nara, you're the strongest person I know.” “Mmm.” She didn't seem too convinced. Admittedly I think we all were tough to convince regarding our own faults. We just laid there a bit, in a comfortable silence.


    Three weeks passed, I hugged Hitomi goodbye as she left for Canada. On my own end, I answered a call to my cell phone. It was a callback, they chose me, and said that I should be in work by next week!


    First day went well. The Mr. Coppola liked to call me Nimi a lot instead of Ms Whitaker or even just Naomi, but it was good work at least. I often helped him dictate letters, offering advice on them for whatever he was going for. I often ended up helping with whatever his department needed help with. I also got him Coffee… I think I met half of the women working here at the coffee pot.


    Wednesday came, third day on the job… Early morning, I transformed, took some time to take a look at what was going on. Anything dangerous I could eliminate and get back home in time for work. That was how it usually went. Flying through space, with my hearing, I began to hear something, pleas and cries for mercy… Those never meant good, so I flew over quickly, a streak of pink in this local solar system with a blue sun. Flying down upon the blue planet, kind of like ours.


    I flew down, and there was some…. Thing? A bright glowing orange thing, looked like a dragon, or maybe a hydra? Whatever it was it was coming down and the people looked terrified. It looked like a job for Star Guardian!

    I flew down, a streak of pink, and declared forth immediately, “I am the Stars’ Guardian! Cease your evil ways and leave at once!” I said, pointing right at it, legs planted firmly in the ground.


    He didn’t react. The people behind me were mostly confused as well… Admittedly from the looks of it, it was going to destroy the planet with how many months there were… Jeeze that’s a lot of heads.


    Fine, I was ready to fight though! I had no fear, and just had to take down them all, I knew nothing about them, maybe it’d be easy or hard as hell, but I would accomplish it! I will protect these people!


    I put my hands right in front of me, crossed from each other, before uncrossing, with one yell resonating to the skies of this world.

    “STARLIGHT ERUPTION!”


    This was


    ten


    Freaking


    Hours


    Ago.



    Just… Just. Ok so, my beam, the starlight eruption just sort of… Veers off in a weird direction, and doesn’t do anything. That’s fine, I just do it with more force.


    Nope. This time it actually disappears into that sea of orange. I was getting pretty worried at this point, but again, I didn’t realize what this was turning into.


    I fly up, trying to punch through them, if need be drag the entire body. Problem: I couldn’t touch them.


    Not that they were fast. They moved about as much as a lazy snake in Alaska. No I literally couldn't touch them. My hand just went through.


    So maybe they’re an illusion right? Funny thing.


    I couldn’t touch them, but they could touch me. And bite me. And electrocute me.


    It was unpleasant. Still, they were focusing on me.

    All bajillion of them. I suppose the planet wasn’t destroyed at least.


    This was hour one.

    Hour two: I’m trying to experiment. Maybe I could hit the ones who bit me!


    Nope.


    Maybe if I time the strike so that I hit them in the head the exact same time they bite me!


    Nope.


    ...Maybe I needed to aim for the inside of the mouth?


    Nope.


    It was at this point I was beginning to become aware of the time. Work was starting soon.



    Hour four: It roared. That spooked me, I thought something was going to happen. It did not. It gave me the idea to give out my Starlight Scream. That didn’t work.


    Hour six: This was a regular scream when I realized I was three hours late for work.


    I shortly tried to fly away, maybe it would follow me and I could blast off to Earth and ask my friends for help. Team attacks always worked when nothing else would!


    That didn’t work either, and it quickly went back to trying to eat the planet. Which meant that I had to go back and defend the planet.


    Hour Eight: I realized I was becoming nostalgic for the Darkness. God I feel guilty even thinking that… But it stopped time when it attacked so… I never had to worry about being late.


    Hour nine: It roared again. I yelled at it to shut up. It probably didn’t understand or care.


    Hour ten: I’m fired. I just know it. I missed most of the day, there was an hour left for my work. I’m just… How do I explain this to my boss? I can’t obviously… Wait where was the monster? I looked around, oh god I didn’t get so stuck inside my head that it went and devoured the planet did it?

    I could never forgive myself if that happened, I looked down and...Oh hey the people are still there. And… They look happy. Looking around… No real sign of the orange hydra… What just…


    I flew down, another pink streak across the sky, walked over to the one who looked like they were in charge, and asked “Hey! Glad to help… But I wasn’t able to do anything to it. What happened?” He pointed at the guy over at the tree sulking. “Zirmu hit Surgnu in the eye with a rock. No longer perceived by the Cultist’s Eye of Doom, he disappeared from our reality.”


    … Don’t scream. Don’tscreamdon’tscreamdon’tscreamdon’tscream. “I… See.” Close enough. I flashed a smile to them “Glad I was able to help.”


    I flew off straight to work, letting the smile fade away and turn into a scream. I didn’t regret helping them, I loved being there and helping people but… All I had to do was poke someone’s eye! Just… I’m not looking forward to begging for and losing my job. I returned to Earth, flew down to Hitomi’s house. I already had wasted time enough, I just had to show up, beg for my job back, promise not to screw it up so badly. I took the chair, flew over to the office building, came in swift as I could, through a window quickly looked around, and sat down, letting the magic drain away from me…


    Right. Now to wheel myself over to my boss… What story do I even…


    Clatter


    My head turned around. Mr. Coppola was right there, his pencil falling from his hand. “I…” “Nimi… What was… Are you...”


    Oh god… What do I do now?

    Signature and Avatar by NinjaSushi

  • #2
    Chapter 2

    There I was. Face to face with my boss Mr. Coppola. I waited for him to speak, in the vain hope that it was about anything but what I knew it was about.

    “What was that? How did you come in through the window? Is this from the monolith?” he saw me flying in as the Star Guardian. I… I couldn't think of anything, and I panicked. “Please don't fire me!” I blurted out, bowing before him best I could, hoping he didn't take offense. Mr. Coppola… Was too stunned to form a response. And simply said “We need to talk after work.” OK…. Ok I still have my job. Not much happened this hour, Mr. Coppola sent me to organize some files, probably as a way to get me out of the way. That was fine, I really wasn’t in any state to get much done. I still had my job but… God the last thing I wanted was for people to find out I go to space and fight monsters. Oh god what if he was telling everyone… Who else might know?

    I was looking over some files, deep in my own head when someone tapped my on the shoulder I shot upright, and even let out a frightened squeal. “Naomi, calm down, it’s just me.” Oh… It was just Lili Smith. I had to calm down. “Sorry… What is it?” “Work ended a few hours ago. Mr. Coppola was wondering where you were.” “...Right. Thanks.” I shook her hand and finished organizing the files.

    Time to go to Mr. Coppola… Damn it, I spent so much time worrying I didn’t even think of how I was going to get out of this mess. I simply sat there before him, fidgeting nervously, playing with my hair. I hadn’t fallen back on that habit since… Since I was eleven to be honest, and I thought my parents were going to kill me for missing school a third time that week. Only now he could really hurt me, fire me and hurl me onto the streets. He had due cause as well so it’s not like I’d even receive pay.

    “So…” He paused a moment. “Ms. Whitaker. You know why we’re having this conversation.” “...Yes. You saw me come in through the window.” “...Were you pretending to be crippled?” “No sir.” I said, shaking my head. Trying to maintain eye contact, though my eyes often darted away regardless. I felt so small in this moment.

    “But, you were standing.” How do I explain that as simple as possible… I doubt he wanted to know exactly how my magic worked. “Not under my own power.” “And… What were you doing? Why were you so late?” It was clear he was just as nervous as me. “...I… Was fighting a creature in space.” “...For fun?” “No!” I said, that was about the loudest I’d gotten this whole conversation. What if I made him mad with that? I added afterwards, much quieter that “People, from another planet, they were in danger. I had to save them.”

    He simply stared at me. “You… So… You’re like a space version of that man in Sun City? With the sunglasses, he fought the sea monster, was on the news.” “Maybe. I don’t know what’s going on in Sun City myself, but it sounds like it.” He raked his hands over his head. He turned towards me, staring at me with narrowed eyes. “So then, I’m not going to fire you.” Oh thank goodness. “Thank you, I promise you won’t regret it, I’ll make up for this, I’ll work the next eight hours, or on sundays for a month, whatever you need-” “Your powers however. I’m going to make some calls.” I shook my head and he stopped, “Please… I… I don’t want anyone to know.” “...I won’t tell them who…” He motioned in the air “That is. But ‘she’ needs to be there when I call. You want to make up for this, and I know this’ll happen again. You need to be there.” “...Yes sir.” “Good, good, you’re a good secretary, and… Maybe if you do well you might make a lot off of that power.” “...Thank you sir.”

    I quietly made my way out. Went to the car, started it, and drove off. I came to Hitomi’s house, opened the door, and simply sat there, staring at my phone as I lay on the table. I need to tell my friends what happened. I called Nara. “Hey… Nara?” I made no attempt to hide my emotions. “Naomi?” “I screwed up. I screwed up bad. I… I…” My voice started to crack. “My boss… He knows about it.” “Oh… Naomi I’m…” I was crying at this point. “I’ll get the others. We’ll figure this out. The garden?” She said. She was always good at grabbing the team together. “Yeah…” I said.

    We made our way there, Nara was there first. Then me. Hitomi. Ellen. And finally Anya. Hitomi was leaving for Canada tomorrow, but still made time for this. No one had their dye either, so the natural colors shown through.

    Nara had orangish hair, it was difficult to tell since she was already a ginger, but if you looked closely, there were brighter streaks of a darker orange in her hair. She’s the Sun Guardian. She ended up teaching us how to fight, and I still relied on her teaching. She’s going to the nationals soon as well, I’m proud of her.

    Hitomi has greenish hair, dark green streaks among her black hair, she was always the smartest among us, and loved all sorts of fields of science. She’s the Woods Guardian. Ended up focusing on archeology, but I think she still keeps up to date on the other fields. She’s going places, and I think is already pretty respected in her field of academia.

    Ellen has bluish streaks, which even for the relative softness were very contrasting with blond hair. She’s the Winter Guardian. She’s also an artist, even has her own tv show, I know when she started we’d make fun of her endlessly for it, but these days she’s settled into it pretty well. She’s a brilliant painter, always has been.

    Anya had yellow streaks in her brown hair. She’s the Diamond Guardian. She was particularly amazing, working as a fashion model, I think she’s getting into acting even. She managed to make her hair work for her honestly, and I’ve seen a lot of younger girls getting similar dye jobs because of it.

    They’re all really amazing and talented. And then there’s me. The Star Guardian. I was never really that pretty, or smart, or athletic, or artistic. I ended up leading them mostly because I was there first. And now, after all that… I’m the idiot that got distracted and revealed her identity to someone I didn’t trust.

    An awkward silence followed. I couldn’t blame them. Nara brought it up “So, Naomi ended up revealing her identity by accident.” That wasn’t new information, just a way to start the conversation. Ellen quickly asked “Well… What happened?” I… Didn’t explain it to Nara in much detail, and sitting there I had to… I didn’t enjoy explaining the conversation. Anya tilted her head, “...Where do you work again? I can never remember what that place does.” I answered “It’s a local subsidiary of a foreign corporation, lots of government equipment, like fire trucks and police cars.” “...Do you think they’ll want to know about this place?”

    A silence befell when Anya mentioned that. The forest had an enchantment on it after all, making people remember some other pressing thing they had to do, but that wouldn’t work if the pressing goal lay within the forest. I only found this place because my cat/mentor led me here by making me chase it. But if they were told about this… I shook my head. “No, I’m not going to betray this place like that!” I said, but Ellen stepped in here. “What if they tell a newspaper what happened?” Hitomi stepped in “Who’d believe them? Hitomi can’t even walk and now some reporter is gonna write that she can transform and fly?” I fiddled a bit with my the handle of my wheelchair. “...This is also the first job I’ve had in months.” “You can live at my place you know, and I’m not going to be-” “I don’t want to just rely on you!” A pause. “...Sorry. I…” Anya stepped in. “Look, he doesn’t even know about this right? Just don’t bring it up. I’m more worried what they’re going to make you do.” “...Yeah.” Nara drew me in for a hug. “Just keep your head on a swivel, and don’t let him blackmail you into anything you wouldn’t do.” The rest came in after that.

    After that we ended up catching up in general. Not about me, we already covered what happened to me. But Nara was taking in a lot more students after winning that tournament, Hitomi talked again on the expedition she was going to, Anya was apparently getting flown all the way to Paris for a shoot, and Ellen was taking a hiatus to work on personal projects back home. Honestly it was nice to hear about their lives, I was happy for them, they were moving forward.

    Two days later, I finished work. I was beginning to head come, my phone began to ring. It's Mr. Coppola. I stared at it as it rang. One ring. Two rings. Three rings. I picked up, and tried to put my professionally happy attitude. “Mr. Coppola! It's lovely to hear you!” Maybe it's not that. “Ah haha!” He laughed. “Well Nimi, you remember our conversation?” Damn it, “Yes sir.” “I'm send the address to your phone, Star Guardian needs to be there, in about an hour.” “Yes sir, understood.” I said. “And Nimi” “Yes?” “It will be fine, you just need to be pretty and show what you can do.”

    … I finished the drive in the driveway, parking inside Hitomi’s garage. I didn't bother, I gathered my thoughts, and transformed. I looked at the address, put it in my phone and… This is in the Ocean? No wait, there's a small island… And he gave me a time limit of an hour, but any normal person would take at least half the day, assuming they flew.

    I'm already being tested.

    I flew out, a pink streak in the sky of San Diego and the ocean. Under a minute I was already there, looking around, there’s the building, a skyscraper overlooking an island. Looking in the distance with my magic… Yeah there’s Midway. I saw a few men in suits, out of place, and flew down, touching down in front of them. “I was told to come here?” I said. Keep cool.

    The two stared at me, apprehensive, admittedly I wasn’t smiling any here, I just wanted to get this done. “Y-yes. Come with me miss.” He said, the nervous suit said, taking me inside, over to a large industrial lift. We rode it down, lights, and listening… Sounds of construction. Digging. Lots of talk as well, mostly just about the work or gossip… And… I heard something.

    “She’s already here?” “She claimed to go space, if she can ‘patrol the stars,’ tih shouldn’t be difficult.” A grunt, “Well, here’s seeing the tests. You running the analyzer on her?” “Of course, I had them set it up, we’re collecting data on her as she makes her way down. We’ll see what makes her powers tic, though it’s safe to say she’s not someone who got lucky from the Monolith.”

    They kept talking, including worried about me just killing everyone… I cringed hearing that, I was not some kind of mad killer! The lift stopped, and we went forward, into a testing chamber. “Star Guardian, as I’m sure you’re aware, the ‘supercriminals’ have been plaguing the world. Men and women with extraordinary powers that use them to commit evil. We want to put a stop to them.” I never turned off my magic, I wasn’t simply hearing the speakers, I also heard him echoing through the doors. The rustling of papers. Wait… Is.. No, he’s not reading off a script right? He’s not. Stop, you’re being paranoid.

    “We’re going to train a new generation of Monolith-Empowered Individuals to serve the needs of law enforcement. We’d like you to test out this training ground…” If I used my full power I’d the this entire place. Instead I’ll just power up slightly, and do this with all my present strength. That should be good enough for them at least. Tests kept going and going, and by the time the tests ended it was nightfall. I headed back, flying back faster than any airplane could, down to Hitomi’s house, and entered through the window.

    I slumped at the back, and texted Hitomi. Telling her “First test done. So far so good. No one seems to know who I am so Mr. Coppola’s at least keeping my secret.” She congratulated me, and I said thank you. Still… I didn't trust them. What were they doing with that info? And I couldn't get the sound of papers out of my head.

    What if they were going to do something awful with my power? I immediately went to my cell phone, and hesitated, my first instinct was to call the group but… I was asking them to bail me out of my mistake again, dropping everything for me… And besides, I don't have proof anyway right? I should get proof first.

    The next day I flew over again, faster this time, in a few seconds, up into space and above the island. Magic induced sight brought me all the way down to the island… Coast is clear a few miles out, down I went in just a second, careful to stop before I hit the ground. Another transformation, I reached into my puch and took out some lipstick, I applied it to my mouth and imagined the other man from before, didn't tell them about this, I said very little about my abilities in general.

    And I've turned into him, a perfect replication of him, even his closest friends couldn't tell the difference. Well… Just looking at me at any rate. In any case, I walk in, the workers and other guards, and went down… Now… If I can just remember how the sound traveled...

    I could not. I ended up wandering aimlessly throughout the complex. Doors that led to file after file, computers… I'll need to drop in on someone else… I still look like him at least so… Say… What’s that? I saw a women, she stood in front of the door, leaned down towards a panel, it opened up to a visor, she looked into it and… Oooooh. One of those locks requiring an eyeball. She opened the door and went inside. I waited a bit, looked around for cameras or people… No one. Alright… I transformed again, the lipstick allowing me to take her form as well. I just hoped no one asked me anything. Looked into it, red lights covering my eyes… And then there it was. Door opened, and I was inside. I walked in…

    What I saw… I didn’t know what to make of it. A lot of testing chambers, many I didn’t see, a lot of other contraptions I couldn’t tell, though they did remind me of Tesla. I listened in with my magic and… Lots of stuff I didn’t understand. Latin and names and scientific jargon… God maybe I should have asked for help. No no… I don’t want to ask for help, and I didn’t have any proof of something strange going on anyway.

    I did pick out a word though. “Pink” just a word, but it was better than anything else, I made my way over. Honestly… It felt a bit strange walking for this long. Even as Star Guardian, I rarely walked, I flew, and as Naomi… Well I can’t do anything with them. One step in front of the other.

    I got to it and… Footage of me. Of doing the tests, I rarely thought about it… I only saw myself once as Star Guardian, and that was fourteen years ago, when I was eleven. Now that I see myself here… It felt alien almost.

    My hair certainly grew longer, when I was eleven it went down to my neck only, now it was down past my shoulders. The uniform was mostly the same, a mix of white and pink and gold, with my boots being white, laced up things. The hair flowed a lot more too looking at it. I looked… Better. In every way honestly. My eyes shined even, in a way my own eyes never did. Not that I had dead eyes but as Star Guardian… I felt jealous of myself.

    Focus Naomi. What are they even talking about?

    ...Focusing in on their conversation didn’t help at all, it was still all latin and big weird words. They seemed stiff as well thinking about it, they were much more talkative before I- It’s because of this body, they think they’re being inspected… Fine, I’ll leave the room.

    “What a bitch. I swear she hates us personally.” “I mean at least she wasn't lashing at us… She’s a lot more pleasant when she’s quiet to be honest.” Aaaand I hated them, even if they weren't talking about me specifically. “Seriously though, the energy costs of this… I’m glad we ran into her when we did, how else was this behemoth gonna fuel itself?” That… Didn’t sound good. They continued their conversation, and I headed deeper into the complex, behemoth… that sounded big.

    Orange lights came up and… “Alpha-1 test active, please stay clear of the testing range.” That sounded like it. With magic hearing… It was… That way. I went down the hallway, straight forward until I passed the windows and… That…

    It was as large as Hitomi’s house, about two stories, the machine reminded me of a dog or wolf with some sort of energy cannon for a head. With how large it was, and the way it was moving… It looked like it was built for warzones, far too destructive for city work, even against supercriminals.

    That thing was absolutely not what I wanted to come from this. If this got out and… God I’d... How many would die because I wanted to keep my job?

    I couldn’t let that happen. I transformed into Star Guardian proper, and flew inside the arena, through the window. It immediately took note of me and attacked.

    I still couldn't go full power, not just here, I'd collapse the island. Instead I had to gradually scale my power.

    The first few minutes of adjusting were… painful. It knocked me around quite a bit. Each building I was blown through, each I knocked it from, informed me more as to the damage it could do. The lasers it fired at me hurt especially, I think that was straight up using my own magic on me. The things that could hurt me were far and few between, so it made sense that here it was my own magic, from when I did tests for them. It even got a paw on me, trying to crush me with rapidly increasing weight. Each new attack looked less and less suited to policing, and more and more suited for war.

    Still, that thing had a limit. I didn't. It's defeat was inevitable at least, I simply used more and more magic, doing more and more damage until its armor was shattered with a single punch. Shortly after, it shut down as I lifted it above my head. Researchers came in after this, to see me throwing it down to the floor and yelling at them “I DIDN'T LET YOU RUN TESTS ON ME SO YOU COULD MAKE WEAPONS!”

    Instead of everyone leaving, one lady, the one who’s appearance I took, approached me despite my foul mood, and told me “Star Guardian that weapon is meant to protect the people.” I snapped back saying “That thing will destroy any area it's in, how is that going to help with criminals!?” “We're going after bigger targets than that. More important ones.” Before I could butt in she launched into what felt like rehearsement almost, “Not the criminals or thieves or mobsters or even Terrorists. You know as well as I that there is much more scary stuff than people from the Monolith.” That stopped me. I'd know in particular?

    “What do you mean?” “Beings that invade our world. Hiding within the margins. This thing is meant for a war because it is for war. If you promise to not destroy it, I can show you.” that stopped me. I went with her, gently dropping the giant wolf. She brought me to a screen, and pressed a few buttons. “Approximately a decade and a half decades ago, the leader of this initiative had encountered an uprising in extra dimensional forces. Matter not native to our universe, forces coming through, acting like a secret plague on global society. He contacted a friend of his to set up a counter force to defend the planet. At least once every generation this happens as well… Lord knows how we survived for so long under such a continuous assault…” People like us. The Light Guardians or a team like us every generation. Pushing back whatever evil force invaded.

    She talked further about energy signatures and whatnot but looking at this… They… They're trying to fight the Darkness? Or preparing to at any rate. “We're didn't have a way to power our weapons however, but that changed when you came to us.” She said, turning to me, and raising her hand at me. “You use a power source outside yourself, and we've been tapping into it. Where once men and women had to fight and risk their lives every week, we can send in automated weapons, pushing back the invaders.” She then brought her hand to my shoulder. “We were planning on telling you later, certainly not on you finding out like this.”

    I… I was speechless. “I'm sure you understand how dangerous the universe can be.” I simply nodded. If she was telling the truth… I had to remember all the close calls we had. And if we really lost, if one of us fell… She was making sense. And that attack did feel familiar. Still, fighting the Darkness wasn't just about blowing it up, it was about helping people, and the robot wolf was no therapist.

    Ultimately I did want to believe her. And I did, she seemed earnest to me. “You don't need to worry Star Guardian, this may convince the board to tell you more in the future. I shook her hand and flew off, seeing her turn around and start barking orders at everyone else.

    I got back to Hitomi’s house. Back into my wheelchair. At the least they seemed well intentioned enough. I just wheeled myself back to a shower, then bed. I could tell them what happened later. At the least… They didn’t seem like bad people...




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    • #3
      Chapter 3
      My name is Nara, and I was in front of my class. Inside this school, it was a simple building, with a grass garden out back, and class windows all across the front. I was delivering a brief lecture, membership at the temple had gone way up since I won the finals. I'll have to admit it was a great high, though now… I'm teaching. This was new and my nerves were screaming. It was one thing to compete, even on a national level, just do what I normally did. Now I need to teach a bunch of freshfaced youngsters how to fight, how to be polite, sportsmanship… Sifu Okorin has been willing to answer my questions at least.

      Today was just basics. Pre-basics really, good manners in a match. Be kind, respectful, bowing, the importance of fighting fair (and not confusing that with holding back). I kept a straight face during this. Nothing happened on the first day at least. The second day we began working on stances and katas. Some of the kids seemed nervous, some seem delighted to be here, others were clearly dragged here by their parents and wanted nothing to do with this. Correcting a lot of posture, I ended up adjusting a lot of stances personally until they were… Better. Still bad imitation, but better.

      On the sixth day of training, we had sparring matches. Most did varying shapes of… okay. Some dropped out of course, but that stayed did well… Except one. This kid, young boy, his stance was sloppy and I noticed he had trouble keeping up. After the teaching ended, I approached him privately. “Hey Jeremy.” I said. He didn't seem sure how to respond at first. “Hi Sifu.” “Your technique was spotty today. Stay up late?” He turned away, saying “Y-yeah, I just was practicing a lot.” Maybe he was lying, but I assumed he told the truth, laid a hand on his shoulder and told him “It's fine to train, but your body needs sleep too. Steady improvement is more valuable than overtraining and coming here exhausted.” That was that for the day. But the next classes I noticed he still had the issue. And he kept giving the same excuse. I was beginning to wonder what was going on at this point. I had thought to go to Sifu Okorin… But I already knew what I was going to do. I still didn't feel at home teaching, but this… I had experience with. Something was on his mind.

      So, the day before the next class, I went to Jeremy’s house. Just biked my way there. Checking the address, this kid seemed fairly well to do, their house was two stories tall… I came closer, and started walking my bike to the front… I could hear something..

      Ok, I haven't done this in a long time but what I heard didn't sound good. I placed my ear to the door, used a bit of magic to enhance my ears aaand… Oh. Oh wow they were yelling at each other about money. And outside, in the backyard I could hear him practicing. Oh… I see. He's escaping the arguments with training. Focusing on one thing until it blew over, and they lasted so long.

      I… Could sympathise with that. I doubt I could do anything today to stop it, but I did want to give him reprieve from this. At least for a day. I knocked on their door. The father answered, and they seemed to be trying to hide their argument, greeting me with a “Hello Ms.Matsuura, how can we help you?” “Hello Mr. Aleman” I said making sure not to pronounce it Ale Man, “I was going to ask if you would allow it if I took your son for training. He’s a promising student, and I wanted to take him to train, by the local waterfall.” I said. I’ve been teaching them for a while, and I hoped I built up enough rapport with them that they’d trust me. Thankfully they agreed. I had to wonder if it had to do with their recent argument, but either way, at least I got him away from it. They closed the argument, and from my magic hearing, they seemed… To get right back to it depressingly quick. “Sifu Matsuura… I thought you said I was falling behind?” “...I did.” I said “But I could hear them arguing from over here… This happen often?” He didn’t answer. That’s fine.

      “If you want, we can go to the waterfall anyway. Meditation can help.” He still didn’t answer. I just started the bike, and waited for him to get on before handing him a helmet. Safety first. We drove off straight towards my home, it was a small thing. We arrived at the apartment block. I was pretty lucky, and managed own a small, narrow apartment with backyard that I could pay for.

      We entered, and I had everything mostly organized, more because I rarely spent much time inside, instead I preferred spending my time outside. He still wasn’t talking much, but he didn’t seem resentful or anything either, and he seemed a bit more relaxed now that he got away. I didn’t ask him anything at the moment, I wanted him to open up to me on his own. Instead I simply told him “You can sleep in my bed tonight.” I told him.

      Later, around bedtime, he approached me, I didn’t really feel comfortable doing most of what I’d normally do, so I simply meditated, kid was only 15 or so after all. “Sifu…” “Yes?” I said. I had to admit, I felt a lot less strange when talking to one child and not a whole class. “My parents have been… Fighting for a while.” I simply waited, sitting and looking at him attentively. “I think it’s about money.” Money… It tears apart couples all the time. It tore my parents apart too. “I know what that’s like.” I said, extending an arm to him “Hey, no matter what they say, this ain’t your fault.” I said. I know I’ve felt the same thing as I buried my head under pillows, trying not to listen. “What happened with your parents?” Eventually they got divorced when I was just 11. “Everything worked itself out, it just got really scary for a while but it worked out.” I said, patting his head. “Let’s go to bed.”

      I slept in my bed, I took out a mat and slept there. Next day I took him directly to the school. He did a lot better with sleep. I think out of the twenty students, he was among the top five. Jeremy honestly had a talent.

      The next time I headed over, the inside school tournaments were coming up. As I came it sounded like they were arguing again. This time I was more specific, I told them I wanted him to partake in a school tournament. Maybe even against other schools eventually. Jeremy and two other best ones, Layla and Abdul, would come with us. We took a trip to an old house Sifu Orokin had inherited. Used to be a country home when his family was wealthy, but had been converted into a camp for training. Fitting given how close to nature it was. We and two other teachers came, and of course Sifu Orokin himself.

      Twelve students in total, under all our watch. Admittedly I felt out of my depth, I could fight but next to other teachers, I felt inadequate. So much better at communicating these things, and teaching in general. I talked to them about my students. Abdul had something to prove, simultaneously overconfident and taking each failure too personally. I’ve had to tell him a ton of times that that failure is part of the process and a chance to learn. Layla on the other hand had a ton of natural talent, but I worry that her talent’s going to hurt her in the future. She isn’t used to pushing herself to achieve her goals.

      And Jeremy… I really worried about him. I think in many ways he has the most potential, but… Well, I talked to the others. I talked to Sifu Naglin, a red haired man, and Sifu Amari, shortest of us.They’d been here as teachers years before me, hell I’ve trained with Sifu Amari. “I worry about him. My own parents went through that and... I don’t him to go through the same.” I told them. Naglin responded to me telling me “All we can do support them the best we can Nara.” Amari put her hand on my shoulder and told me “You just have to be there for him.” I suppose.

      It started well, and Jeremy really began to improve, and now that we had multiple teachers, Layla would end up facing us Sifus. I suppose in one way that probably doesn’t help her with humility, but for the first time she was beginning to run into a real obstacle. Abdul seemed to be adjusting fine. Jeremy in particular was doing great here, really improving.

      Turns out not too long after, another school had sent a group of their own here, in the neighborhood anyway, renting a more proper arena. We decided to put on a demonstration for the students. I mean they’ve been training hard, it was probably fine, plus we had been rivals. Sifu Orokin and Sifu Alto performed a demonstration. Yeah… Despite teaching my own class, Orokin’s demonstration was beyond anything I could accomplish, despite him being old enough to be my grandfather. I on the other hand went against their star pupil in a match. We bowed to each other, and began. A circle about ten yards in diameter, the ground was soft grass. I stood there, black on white uniform with short sleeves, he was in white on red long sleeves. We were about the same height (makes him a tad short for his sex), but I couldn’t help but feel like he was looming over me as we just looked at each other.

      We stared across at each other, me and Antony. He won last year’s, and didn’t attend this year, a trip to Vietnam apparently. It’ll be interesting, and I could here the teens murmuring about who they thought would win. “Begin!” They said. Neither of us moved a muscle, slowly moving in. I was usually more aggressive, but doing that against a fellow champion was practically disrespectful, and also a good way to end up on the floor. There were no specific rules, not like commercial wushu, they just trusted us to have the humility to give when we’ve been defeated and the awareness to realize when we’ve been forced out of the line.

      Silence, we stared at each other’s eyes. Waiting for the slightest sign of what would happen. His eyes flickered to my stomach, just a second but I already reacted, moving my body to intercept his fist, as I could see his arm tense. That was the wrong thing to do, instead of catching his blow, he kicked my head with his foot, sending me off balance, he quickly put on the pressure, and I had to keep moving back, just to regain balance. Barely a few seconds and I was already at the edge. He continued the assault, like a flurry of quick small punches, meant to push me out while avoiding overextension. Thankfully I could ground myself, each blow of his as hard as I had expected…

      I was already doubting my ability to win here, a lot of the martial artists I would’ve normally faced had been absent the year I won. Still, I wasn’t about to just give him this, and pushed through. I used my elbow to block his strike, using that time to run in and push him back, following with a leap into three kicks and pushing him back, returning us to the center.

      Unfortunately that was about the most I'd get. The rest of the match met that pattern. Maybe I'd attack or defend, but he found a weak spot and pushed me to the edge, and I'd manage some counter and drive him back. But I never managed to push him any. He had control. It was only a matter of time before he managed to push me out og the ring.

      Bruised and beaten back, I sat down… Goddamn it, Antony barely even looks tired… Did he even try? Between heavy breaths I responded “I still have much to learn it looks like.” “You fought well.” he said, giving a slight bow. Everyone else clapped. A lot to learn… If anything I think I’m probably one of the worse instructors here, I just had to hope I was doing a better job with my students than I was at representing them.

      Time continued and our schools mingled a bit. More testing against each other. I even taught a few forms to the mixed class, I thought I ended up way too stiff but the others reassured me, Antony even said that I was textbook! I watched the others as well, not so much to learn fighting but to learn how they teach. Turns out Antony has occasionally helped the others. Seeing him easily go into training, quickly adapting to the students… He got Jeremy to start performing a few forms and demonstrations where I had taken a week to start before this.

      I needed to learn more from him. His method of teaching was the closest to how I was handling it. Swallow that pride Nara, you need to learn from someone better. So… I did. Late at night I went to Antony. “Antony.” “...Nara? It’s the middle of the night?” “Can we talk?” “What did you want to talk about?” “You’re a better teacher than me. The students are more attentive with you, you’ve taught them faster than me. I’ve felt pretty lacking in that department. My co-teachers tell me I’m fine but I can tell. I’m not that great a teacher.” He tilted his head. “You’re a fine teacher. You just need more confidence in yourself. That kid, Jeremy had a lot of the foundation for it. Seriously, if you trust yourself, you’ll do fine. Maybe I can give you some pointers later but that’s all really.” “...Thanks.” I gave him a hug.

      He's nice. Though it's hard for anything he said to really sink in. Jeremy meanwhile has been training with other students, making friends with them. I had to admit, despite my own shortcomings I was happy for him. He deserved this. Later that evening Antony approached me. He invited me out to train, as fighters, we trained by the streetlamps. I had to admit, it was nice to be the student again, I never really was comfortable teaching. He helped me out on a few things, some forms, some strikes, we even went over a few ways I could have forced him to take risks himself in that situation.

      God. I could tell he’s been at this a long time. And pushed himself farther than I have. Eventually I asked him, as we sat barely less than a few inches between us. “Say, no one ever said why you went to Vietnam. Was it personal or…” “It was personal I suppose. Nothing I'd use here.” “I see” I said, leaning into him. “You seemed a lot more relaxed.” I laughed in response “I'm a martial artist, not an instructor!” I said to him, “I know Sifu Orokin said this was an important next step in my training but, I can't help but feel like I fail them every time I try to teach them. Hell I don't even feel confident as a fighter.” “... You won the nationals Nara. You're probably one of the best in the world, let alone here.” And he drew me in to ruffle my hair, as I called out “Don't use your logic on me!” laughing after I said it. He was right, I just couldn't shake the feeling of not being good enough. Still it does mean a lot to be told I'm good by someone else who won the nationals.

      The camp continued, me and Antony were spending pretty much all our time together at this rate, any that wasn't spent on either teaching, training, or checking on my students anyway. A lot of the times it was more training, but we did talk a bit. Mostly small things, music, stories from our schools. He even taught me a bit of stargazing. It’s weird looking at the stars like that, given I had used to fly among them. I’d never understand how Cancer made a crab though. Funny thing though, whenever I asked what his immediate plans, he got so vague about it, until finally answering “Maybe one of them will be to visit you.” As he leaned in.

      I’ll admit, I really enjoyed him flirting with me… And he wasn’t bad looking either. I ended up kissing him, and I had to wonder if I was being too easy, we hadn’t known each other that long after all… Still, feeling his body pressed up against mine, as we kissed, I couldn’t bring myself to care. It felt good.

      The day after that, I was with Abdul shopping for groceries. There I saw the newspaper for the local area and… Disappearances? I stood there a bit, that was quite the number of people… Well… Maybe… I turned the magic in my ears up, and started listening… And I could hear it. I turned my head towards it, this time using my eyes. I could feel warmth flowing through them, and… There it is. I knew exactly where they were, all huddled up behind bars, bound hands and such. They looked terrified and some were malnourished.

      I did the only thing I could do. I excused myself from Abdul, for just a moment, I’d be back before long. Rounding the corner, I took one long look at the area as a whole, using my magic and...

      I called the police and anonymously tipped them off as to the location and situation of the hostages. The police could break it up and handle it from there. I went back and helped Abdul with the groceries. We went back to it and once I had helped him drop the food off… I decided to use my hearing and drop in again to see what had happened. And… That sounded bad. Quickly I looked, using my magic and… What in the…

      What I saw weren’t normal humans. The police had gotten scattered, and everything was on fire. I hastily dropped the groceries on the nearest table and started running. “I'm sorry Abdul, gotta go!” what I saw there wasn't normal. No flamethrowers, no bottles or glass suggesting molotovs, just fire out of nowhere. I kept running, quick as I could, quickly climbing up a dumpster, lepaing, and feeling another fire envelop me. I haven't done this in a while, I just hoped I didn't fall on my face.

      “Sun Guardian! Revolution!” and the fire remade me, my body looked the same on the surface, but my flying quickly showed otherwise. Straight over there.




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      • #4
        Chapter 4
        This turned out to be an awful idea. Early in the morning, Layla had the idea to go looking around, just explore and find souvenirs to bring back home. We were supposed to focus on training, but I figured it couldn't hurt. Walking past the film, we came across the policemen breaking down a door. We hid, I peeked over… And saw a ton of police officers flying out, knocked on their backs, police cars tipping over… then out came about four… They looked like ghouls, red eyes, pointed ears, hard skin, long nails, sharp teeth.

        And as they came forward everything they touched lit on fire, the hand rails, the cara they passed. Each one slowly walking towards an officer… And one turned their head. They saw me, and whatever they were they weren’t human. We immediately broke and ran, and but before we got far, a ghoul had leaped over us, landed in front, and then their arms started burning. I was in a cold sweat.

        I don't want to die. I had practice.

        I don't want to die!

        Please!

        It was then we heard a thud behind us, and jy head turned to see a beautiful woman, looking straight at the ghoul. She pointed her palm and

        Oh God flame erupted from her hands. I tried to huddle down,shut my eyes, but the fire engulfed me and…

        And…

        I opened my eyes. This… didn't feel like fire. I could hear the ghoul screaming in pain but… I'm perfectly fine. The warm even. The Ghoul was burned to cinders, but I was fine. The grass… It was like nothing happened, were it not for the pile of ashes in front of us. Turning around I saw her facing against the other Ghouls, which had put her in a cyclone of fire, shouting a foreign language at each other.

        “Who is that!?” I couldn’t help but say, as the cyclone quickly was overtaken by a great ball of fire spreading out at the ghouls. And I got a much better look at her, as she knelt down to help the officers up. She… Wait a minute, she looked familiar somehow, the hair was a lot wilder, and the getup was nothing I could imagine anyone I knew wearing but… I couldn’t shake it, I swore I had seen her before, squinting my eyes. “Don’t worry, you all are safe now.” “I… Thank you. Who…” The police officer said, standing up with her help. “Uh…” She seemed surprised by the question. I’m not sure why, most of the people who dress up outlandish like that often love to shout their names. Then again, they usually were lording themselves over the people as well, not saving them.

        “...Sun Guardian.” She finally said, helping another man up. “I’ll go inside and check, there’s no telling what could be inside.” As she turned around to face us, her eyes went wide, focused just above us. I was about to turn before a scar wrapped around my head and mouth from behind, and dragged me off, looking to my left and right, I could see the others were as well, restrained by the same thing. She leaped up above us, trying to catch us. “If you want to protect them, you’ll keep your distance.”

        She stopped, a look of worry painted across her face. “... You can walk away from this. Just let them go!” She said, calling across the distance, the scarf remaining tied around us. She then took a look down at us, “Don't worry, everything's going to be okay,” before turning her head back at our kidnapper. The man waited a moment before answering. “Don't make promises you can't keep.” Her eyes narrowed. “Demands.” “You’re going to let yourself be dragged inside. That form of yours clearly isn't natural, return to your true form. Then the ghouls escort.”

        “And they'll be safe?” I didn't see anything, but she transformed shortly after, I had to assume he nodded. The clothing disappeared into sparkles and… Sifu Matsuura!? She never revealed any of this. I only thought of her as a teacher, I never would have imagined… “Good, now…” Some sort of portal began to form under her feet. She looked down at it, but still remained staring at him, eventually the chains came up, wrapping around her body and pulling her down… I began to notice we were also sinking.

        Down we went, until reaching… This must’ve been the basement. Inside was a ton of occult looking objects, and a bunch of robed people and people who looked like they hadn’t eaten in days. Abdul was shaking, Layla was crying seeing all this. None of us really thought we’d get wrapped up in something like this, and now that we’re here… The scarfs suddenly released. “Go. You’re no longer needed. She won’t be able to transform now… And we’re close enough it won’t matter when the police come.” He said. We went up the stairs of course, we didn’t want to be anywhere close to this… But I stopped before we exited the house. Our teacher was down there with crazy magic cultists… Layla grabbed my hand “Jeremy we have to go!” She half-whispered half-yelled at me. Abdul answered with “What are you going to do once you’re back there!?” “I don’t know! I just can’t leave her there! I… I have do something!” They looked at each other, and with a look of pessimism and fear they relented. They let me head down, Abdul was going to pull out his phone to call the police, but it was like a dead zone inside this place.

        I headed down, creeping down the stairs and looked at them. The chains still wrapped around her, as she stared the scarf man dead on. “Antony.” The figure stiffened in response. I was surprised, Antony from the camp? “You don’t have to do this.” She said to him. He took off his hood at that point. “How did you know?” She looked away. “I didn’t want to believe it…” She said, before looking him in the eye again. “But I could tell. Antony why are you doing this? These people those…” “Nara, sweetheart… Look at the world. The injustices that are allowed, the supervillains, criminals, monstrous people all over. This world is a doomed one. It’s best we wipe the slate clean. We summon the dark king, and use his power to remake this world, starting with right here.” The look on her face was… Odd. I would’ve been horrified but she simply looked confused. “Dark King…….” She shook her head and then quickly responded with “It won’t work. I don’t know what this Dark King is, but he’s lying to you.” “How would you know?” “Darkness always lies.” “It has served me well. This is what I went to Vietnam for. I found someone to teach it to me.” “Antony, please, don’t make m-” “This room is utterly sealed off from outside forces, nothing gets in or out. You can’t stop this, whatever was giving you that strength can’t reach us here.” “...I can’t do anything to make you stop this?” Antony shook his head.

        She closed her eyes… And then the whole room grew warmer. “I gave you a chance!” She yelled out before bursting into flames, the chains seeming to melt around her, and the room grew so bright and hot I had to shut my eyes from it. She called out “SUNNY DAYS! SUN GUARDIAN, REVOLUTION!” There she was again, in the same clothing, hair like fire and eyes that shined like the sun.At this point everyone in the robes seemed to be teleporting away, performing some gestures and disappearing into portals. Antony stayed, and the scarfs began to cover his whole body. “You’re making a mistake.” “Like kissing you?” She responded.

        Nara, or Sun Guardian or whatever. She ran forward, attempting to punch him, he dodged, but the blow seemed to continue past her fist, breaking through the walls even! I was surprised by this She looked shocked as well, just before getting punched in the face. He ran in, and… Oh god this is just like before, during the contest. He kept on pushing her back. She kept on being pushed back, and every punch after that lacked that same power too, so she was just barely able to push him back again. It was a repeat of it, though this time his scarves came out to pull her in, and she kept on using fire to maintain distance.

        Just for a minute they both stopped, her eyes drifted for just a moment and- “Jeremy!?” She said. I began to back up, but he reached out his hand “I told you to leave!” He said, reaching scarfs towards me. I didn’t know what he was gonna do, I don’t think she did either, but she freaked out. “STAY AWAY FROM HIM!” She said, suddenly bolting forward faster than I could see, and before I knew it, he went flying, and the scarf stopped before it could reach me. I looked at Antony and… He was in a crater. The wall had collapsed where he had slammed into. Was he… Dead?

        I looked at her, Nara, Matsuura, Sifu… She looked scared as well. Going over “Please don’t be…” She quietly said to herself, crouching by him. He stirred, coughing blood… “...What…” “Stay put. You’re in no position to move.” “...I didn’t expect that Nara. You held back?” She stayed silent. “...Fine. You win. I can’t win, not like this.” She went over to the people in cages, and casually ripped the prison bars open. “You’re safe now. Come on, the police should be upstairs.” She said, before taking one last look at Antony before heading up.

        We headed back, Nara transforming back into her human form and just sneaking away with me. As we walked back, I had to ask… “So… You’re a superhero?” She quickly answered with a “No. I haven’t turned into Sun Guardian… Forever really. I’m just me these days.” She said walking with me. Still, looking at her like that… I found it hard to believe. “...Why?” “Why?” “Why not be like… That all the time. You were amazing.” She tilted her head at that question. “Well… I’m the same me, and I’d rather be normal that… Glowey like that. Speaking of....” She said, before putting her finger to her mouth, in a shushing motion “Can I trust you not to tell anyone what happened her?” She said, smiling at me. “Y-yeah!” I said. I couldn’t understand why but if she didn’t want me to tell anyone… I’ll keep a secret.

        We continued in silence. And when she thought I wasn’t looking, her face turned concerned. “Sifu?” She quickly regained her composure, as if to cover up her own worry from before. “Hm?” “What did you see in Antony anyway?” “...I’d rather not talk about that so soon after having to dump him, ha ha!” She said, scratching the back of her head. “Anyways… You should explain what you were doing all the way over there in the first place. You’re lucky I got there in time.” She said, putting her hand on my shoulder. “I… We just wanted a souvenir. Something to take back.” She smiled at that. “Tell you what. You promise not to do something like this again, and I’ll see about getting you a memento of this.” She said, before leaning in and kissing my on the top of my head, then ruffling my hair.

        I pulled away from her pretty quickly. She assumed I didn’t like being treated like a child… And that was a little true. Mostly I didn’t want her to see my face, I could feel the heat rising when she did that…

        We left a few days later, and as I was at the bus, I sat with Layla, Abdul, and Ms.Matsuura. She went up to me, and said, “I thought maybe you might like this.” She said, before handing me a gold looking pendant. “Before you ask, that isn’t gold, it’s just shiny. Sifu Orokin gave me this because he thought I was a promising student, and wanted me to have something to remember it by. And now I’m giving it to you.” She explained, as I looked at it. It had 火 carved into it. “Make me proud.” She said, smiling at me. I felt… I felt like, for once I really knew her. Better than anyone else even.

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        • #5
          Chapter 5

          “Hitomi?” I felt hands gently shaking me, and groggily opened my eyes. “W-whaaa?” I said, still not having quite woken up yet. “Hitomi, this is our stop, we’re gonna need to board the boat next.” Right… Right… The island off the coast of Canada. Ancient ruins, previously older than Vinland. I was so excited to come, the journey there… Was not as exciting. We had to take a plane to Quebec, fumble our way through the local French, then drive to a remote port before taking a ship.

          Last leg of the journey. My mind went back to the friends I left back home, particularly Naomi.I hope Naomi was okay, she should be fine since I left her at the house… I left everything in arms reach right? She couldn't walk after all. If there anything I had to do, it was late to think about it, and in any case it's late, the moon is hanging high. I got up and stepped out of the car and gooooooood it's cold. It woke me up I suppose, good enough to realize I forgot my jacket in the car.

          The team boarded it, it was the four of us, on a small boat headed towards. As we headed out, I looked at the black water, wrapped up in a winter coat. As we waited, a local sailor getting their ship ready for us, I looked at my team I was the new one here. Josephine, Robert, and Shaqueena all sat in the back, metal and plastic loudly reminding us of the wind. The captain of the ship reminded us “Don’t do anything with the water here! Local oil rig went tits-up, spilled the oil around the island. Whole place is just horrible, the fish are going to die in droves from it.”

          ...Oh god the black water… No I’m not awake yet, not quite there. Shake it off Hitomi.Get into here, you’re heading to work. At the least, I could help myself wake up and talk with everyone else a bit. Shaqueena, Robert, and Josephine were all talking, and I did feel like a third, or fourth wheel here. I talked with the captain here. “Alexandre, what's it like out here anyway? Normally.” Quiet, city folk don't come out that far, I used to mostly work with the oil riggers desperate for something fresh but uh… Most of them are out of a job now. Now I'm giving rides to weirdos who want to go to desolate islands.” I giggled at that admittedly. “Honestly, I think I'll miss this place, I loved being out here, family the whole way down lived around here, all sailors-ever since the French first landed here. But with the oil rig done for, and the oil spill killing the fish, I'll probably need to head south… Least I can take a last look at the area. Help some folk.”

          That wasn't as funny. He seemed like a nice enough person, and it sucked that he may need to leave. “Oh…” I said. I wasn’t quite prepared for something heavy like that, though I think he noticed “Ah don’t you get down about it. You couldn’t do anything about it. Life’s bad for everyone. Just gotta keep your head above water.” I nodded, “I guess that’s all we can do.” I turned back to them, them still conversing.

          I stood there a bit awkwardly, the captain asking me “You look like you want to say something” “huh? That obvious huh?” I was never great at making friends, one on one I do fine, but entering an existing conversation was always difficult for me if I didn't know them. I suppose I hadn't yet made myself comfortable with the team, I mostly stayed with my university, but this was my first time with a new team.

          I think Shaqueena noticed me just looking at them and called out to me. She asked me “Hitomi, I've been meaning to ask, why’d you get into archeology anyway?” “Oh? I mean… It’s not that interesting just… I suppose I love learning about the past you know? My parents weren’t historians, but they were LDS. Researched their family and all that, to sort of, baptize them in post” I said, laughing a bit at that, as I saw Josephine giving me a confused look. “Well, anyways, while they did that, I got a bit curious as to what they were like, as people… And everything went from there. My interests just expanded from there.”

          “Oh really? Well, in my case,” I had expected her to say something profound, or you know, an answer like mine, “I just like digging shit up and seeing what’s inside.” A joke instead, though I did find myself giggling at that. “Couldn’t you just be miner in that case?” Robert said in a playfully sarcastic tone. “Naw, machines take all the fun out of it!” Josephine did interject “You know, in my own case, I wanted to be a historian, not archeology specifically. But it’s close enough and pays just a bit more, and hell I get to handle some truly ancient stuff. That was good enough for me. What about you Robert?” “...Indiana Jones.” I laughed. “Oh god you must be so disappointed!” I said, “You haven’t even whipped one nazi!” I said, and they seemed to find it funny enough.

          “What about Alexandre?” Josephine asked. “I just said a bit ago you daft woman!” He said, though good naturedly, lacking an aggressive bone, though it didn’t exactly speak to good manners. “Sailing’s been in the family a long time, and hell if I’ll let it stop with me.” He said. “By the way, this our island?” He said, pointing in the distance, an island illuminated only by the moon. “That’s the one, yeah.” responded Robert “Ah, well, hope you don’t mind oil on your shoes.” “What?” I said in response, before looking out. Oh dear… The oil was thick here, and I could make out a disgusting and twisted rainbow. “Eugh. Hope no one here smokes.” I said, looking at this.

          We all got down, as close as we could to the breach, water still washed up with oil, so we couldn’t fix it all, and there was no proper docks either. We just had to get our shoes covered in the water and oil, I suppose at least these were for work after all. Well, we got started, scoped out the place, set out the section, and and using various tools and such, started digging, square by square, strata by strata, careful to preserve whatever we came across. Eventually as we did, Josephine came across something, we couldn’t make it out yet, but it looked big…

          Before long we uncovered the whole area and… Wow. Big old pathway, with how deep underground it was… It was incredibly old, I thought as Shaqueena said “I think this is from… around 1000CE?”
          “As old as Vinland…” Josephine said. This was old. We dug inside, setting up tunnel support as we went, just to make sure this didn’t collapse in on us. Old stone, runic writing, though it seemed a bit divergent from what I knew of the vikings, even the ones who landed in Vinland all those years ago.

          Eventually though, we ran out of dirt, but not corridor… “How did these tunnels not collapse after all this time?” I found myself wondering aloud, shining a lantern into this complex. Stone tunnels, the stone looked heavy as well… All intricately carved. “Alright then… Do we want to split up, two and two?” Cover more ground and such, everything here was so sturdy and steady here compared to the first arch. I went with Shaqueena, while Josephine went with Robert. The two of us moved in, taking picture after picture.. Mostly just runes, but as we headed in… “Oh…” Cages, it looks like a prison, skeletons laying inside as well. “Poor guys, looked like they ended up starving there.” Shaqueena told me. “Terrible…” I said, kneeling down by them. We went down, to what looked like… Some sort of execution or torture device? And beneath was a bowl.

          ...I peeked over, looking inside the bowl, intricately carved like the others, but little else of note besid- “Hitomi!” Before I could turn and ask I felt a stone fall on the back of my head. “GAH!” I yelled as my head came forward under the sudden weight, my forehead mashing with the bowl. I looked right up and… Where did that stone come from? I couldn’t honestly make out anything up there where the stone could have hit from. Shaqueena meanwhile was grabbing my shoulders “Lay down a minute so I can look at that.” She said. “God I’m so sorry, I should’ve seen something.” She said,parting my hair. “Well… It doesn’t seem that bad from here, but it did crack the skin” I just sort of stared at the floor, trying to make sure something didn’t happen with my vision as she called them up and let them know what happened. When she was satisfied that I was okay, and I could complete a few quick tasks, we got back up. I looked again at the ceiling… It still looked perfectly formed, nary a spot missing a stone. I looked down as well into the bowl and… “...Shaqueena? Does this look normal?” I said, shining a light down on it, as she came to peek. It was red, the runes were all red with my blood.

          This was not normal, and the bowl wasn’t built in any way to really makes sense of how the blood flowed… I even began to tip the bowl, just a bit, and the blood stayed where it was… “This…” Shaqueena finished my thought “Is strange…” “Yeah…” We ended up bringing the bowl along, whatever was going on with it was worth study. We brought in various pictures, Josephine and Robert had some as well as thrones, dining halls, all underground. Strangest thing was that none of these had any apparent source of light, not even a spot for torches. Did they just bring the sconces with them? We'd have some sign of them having once been there however, considering the prisoners as well, I doubt it was a clean evacuation.

          We went over other findings nevertheless, what it may be for, how it got established, things like that. As time went on though I couldn’t help but be annoyed, it sounded like there was a constant draft that I didn't hear when we entered. “Quick question, anyone hear a draft?” “....Nada.” “...huh.” No one seemed to be sarcastic, but I swore I could hear something…

          “...Maybe I need some sleep, I swear I can hear something.” I said, chuckling. “...Wait do you think it might be…” … Oh god that rock that fell. “...I think I'll be fine.” I really didn't want to deal with the prospect of turning out a burden from this. This was my chance to prove myself in the field. I didn't want to be a klutz who injured herself here. There was something important to me being here I could feel it.

          So I just went to bed early. It was exhaustion. It had to be. That night, I had a dream. I was in a forest, it was misty. I was clad in a simple cloth gown, and walking forward. There was a line of people in front of and behind me. All like me, dressed in the same clothing not that I could them, I only looked forward, dead ahead at the back of another woman’s head. We were all silent, we did nothing, made no conversation, only continued to walk forward. I must walk forward. Nothing else mattered. Not them. Not our destination. Not me.

          It was then I woke. Everyone else was still asleep. I could hear a draft through the hallways… No wait, I slept in a tent, why… I shook my head… Maybe it did something to my hearing… Hallucinating wind though? That isn't normal. I need to get it looked at later. Later. Not now. I need to study this. I need to help. Reveal something here. There's more to this, I just know it.

          I walked down there, I didn't want to wake them up, they had probably been up all night anyway. I continued to walk down the halls, flashlight in hand showing the way. As I came down here, the wind continued to sound in my ears… The sound no one else could hear. I swear, walking through the dining hall, the sound of conversation, this place had have been lively once.

          I would've walked through this, careful not to get in anyone's way, towards… Here. Right here was a wall, engraved with symbols. Right here… Something is behind this. I couldn't explain it, but I was utterly confident that there was something behind this wall…. And… I needed to get there. I put my hand to it… No.. I need something else. It needed something to wake… It needed…

          I began to scratch my hand, and keep scratching it. It needs blood, not a lot but… I kept scratching until it began to bleed. Then I put the hand to the wall again, the red flowing out towards the wall, as it began to give, the wall parting itself and sinking to the ground. This was advanced for a settlement by viking pioneers… Why would…

          Can’t focus on that. Move forward. I could hear the torches flame. Wait, what torches? Where? I looked around, there weren’t even sconces around to hold the torches. My hallucinations are getting worse… Nothing visual yet but… Maybe I should- no. I need to go further in. There’s something important at the end. I need to get to the end of this. Because… I had to prove myself! Yes. I kept going in. Deeper, there was something at the end of this. I must find it. I walked down various sets of stairs, they were sized differently, but I adapted to them quickly, like an old weird house…

          My hand was still bleeding. Couldn't stop. But I'm contaminating this are aren't I? Wouldn't stop. But I've got no one with me, what if I have an accident? I continued. I eventually came to a large coffin, and I heard footsteps behind the stairs, and yelling, just over the crowd and the wind. “HITOMI STOP!” Shaqueena looked at me, panting from exertion. “What the hell are you doing here while bleeding!?” I answered truthfully. “I had to.” I had to? “...How did you even get all the way over here? Hitomi, please, I think that blow to the head is messing with you.” “I had my…” where was my flashlight? I had it didn't I? I couldn't have gotten here from memory. I never came here right? And yet I kept walking. There was something i had to. Shaqueena began to hold my hand, stopping me from going further. “Hitomi. Go back up. We're calling in a chopper and getting you loo-” “No!” I swiped my hand away from hers. She wasn't listening however and pulled in, trying to stop me from going in deeper, I was so close, barely feet away. “Hitomi just calm down for the love of god!” “I have to do this!” “Hitomi please just-” She was physically restraining me, I could hear the others coming. I began to panic and struggled ever harder. “Hitomi stop and just listen to-” My elbow collided with her jaw, sending her crashing back at the wall, landing with a painful sounding thus, as the other two arrived just in time for me to practically leap forward and place my bleeding hand on the coffin, in a small stone circle, blank unlike the rest of the intricately carved surface. Robert was speechless, Josephine could barely get a word out.

          “You've done well servant.” I jerked my head around, where was that voice coming from? “You will be rewarded, once I walk again.” I heard again. “Reward? What are you talking about?” Josephine spoke up. “Hitomi, who are you talking to?” “Can't you…” the sentence died on my lips. I saw Shaqueena, her head was bleeding as she stumbled up. I instead sank to the floor. Oh God… I was crazy wasn't I? Why did I even…

          I collapsed on the floor and began to cry. “I-I’m sorry.” I barely managed to get out. Later I was left on the boat, my hands and feet tied. I asked for them, Robert and Josephine were hesitant to do so, but I already hurt Shaqueena. I didn’t trust myself to control myself here. Alexandre was there, maintaining the boat, occasionally looking at me. “Hey, Hitomi.” He spoke up. “Hm?” “You… Still hear it?” “...Yeah… It’s getting louder.” “You know, you seem pretty self aware right now. Are you sure you need the restraints?” “...I thought they were just hallucinations at first. Then I… I don’t know, I just… Lost it.”

          A lightning strike crashed in the distance, and the wind- the real wind- began to pick up. “What the… I didn’t expect anything like this…” Alexandre said, almost to himself, before looking at me again. “Don’t worry though, we just need to wait it out. I’ve secured the ship, we just may need to wait awhile.” I couldn’t really bring myself to care, my career was ruined with this. It looked like he noticed this, but didn’t exactly know what to say. I couldn’t blame him. The the day ended. The next day, the helicopter that was supposed to pick me up, called and said until the storm was stopping them from flying or sailing over, and advised us to stay put, letting me know to simply rest and keep easy.

          Morning. Breakfast. Robert came to me to undo the bindings on my hands, at first I protested, telling them “No, it’s fine really. I can eat like this.” I said. Josephine responded saying “Look, I’m sure you’ll be fine enough for a meal. Besides you know it’s fake right?” I still could hear the wind, it was howling now and threatened to drown them out, I could barely even make out the actual weather with my hearing. “...I thought I did the first time.” Robert relented on this and simply said to me “...You gotta eat something.” He said, before handing me a small sandwich. “Thanks. I really don’t deserve all the trust you’re giving me. Not after…” Shaqueena said did speak up at this point. “You didn’t know what you were doing. Hell maybe it’s karma for not catching that stone.” “You did all you could. I should've known better than to freak like that.” “And I should’ve known better than to wrestle a crazy person.” She said, laughing. I found myself chuckling at that as well.

          As the day went on, the lightning began to strike more, and more until it was near constant. Me and Alexandre couldn’t even talk over the lightning at that point… The winds were howling louder than ever and… I couldn’t place it. But I felt like something else was going on. This wasn’t a normal storm. It was then something scary happened. A ton of lightning strikes, more than a dozen striking in one place, inland at the island… And… I heard, a voice. Booming in my ears.

          “Now… I… Am… Reborn!” A deep booming sensation, I ignored it at first, another hallucination but looking at Alexandre, he looked at me and yelled “DID YOU HEAR THAT!?” Over the thunder and waves and wind. “...W…” I nodded. If he heard that then… wait a minute I. My eyes went wide. Did… I struggled to get up “Undo these!” He did so quickly, considering the circumstances. Once my hands were free, I undid my leg bindings and began to sprint towards the underground lair we found. Whatever it was, it wasn’t just viking… The dream, the hallucinations, me losing my mind… As I ran the ground seemed to rise, the place taking shape and it was… It was enormous, rising up and uprooting most of the island. I didn’t let it stop me, they were inside, I had to find them. I ran down the hallways dripping wet. I didn’t both wishing I was wrong, something was going on.

          I ran down, eventually coming across my team, Alexandre followed behind me, once we were inside. “They voice I heard in my head. The howling wind… God, it’s all just like this!” “Like a preomination!?” No… “A memory!” I continued running. I couldn’t shake the feeling, that dream. It wasn’t a dream was it!?

          I landed down at the stairs, and looked upon it. Him rising, I was tired from the exertion of running straight here. A tall man, clad in the a helmet, plate armor, standing almost a good twelve feet tall, and absolutely huge. I had to crane my head just to look him in the eye. “To think someone would visit this lonely island after so long…” He walked over to me, and I fell back just… I couldn't stand. I fell back, as a long hand reached down and… Patted my head. “To think that one of my servants, would be reincarnated into the very one that would free me. You've done well, my servant.” I just barely breathed out “...Servant?”

          No… But I felt memories. That dream… I was part of a tribe. These strange men came ashore, foreign men. They were strange, but their leader… Fhe men worshipped him as a God. He proved he was, controlling the wind and lightning. His influence able to speak to us through our minds, filling our heads with images, sounds, sensations. I was one of the first to join him, to serve him. Many in my tribe followed. Most from fear, a few from worship like me. And still others fought back, trying to protect their way of life. And among them were five… the colors were like ours, young girls… couldn't be older than 14.

          What… They were us. Their colors like ours. Blue was Jade Guardian. Red was Ruby Guardian. Pink was morganite Guardian. Yellow was Citrine Guardian. Green, I- She was Emerald Guardian. They named themselves for stones, we partnered ourselves with light. “I am the Stone King. Rightful ruler of all lands, in this world and beyond. I will conquer this world anew, without the Shining Guardians I'll make quick work. Then I can take the stars as I rebuild my might. And then… My most loyal servant, we shall take the whole of reality.” He said, glowing blue eyes shining down on me. They were powerful. I felt infinitesimally small before his gaze.

          But remembering all this… as he headed out to start his conquest. “Wait!” I cried as he moved to the staircase. He looked back, his eyes narrowing. To hell with yours though,I stumbled to my feet. “...Who am I? I have… memories I know I didn't live. Bits and pieces but…” “... You remember that you served me when others did not. That is what is important.” he continued to leave, and I again called out, following. Shaqueena grabbed my shoulder “what are you doing?” She said in a hushed tone. “...I don't know, but I can't let him do this.” I went out. I barely even understood my situation, as I went back out into the rain, following him.

          I just knew I couldn't let him go it and do this. “Stone King!” “What is it, my servant?” “...Why do you need to conquer the world?” “I am it’s rightful ruler.” “What if they don't want you to rule?” “What they want is irrelevant.” I pushed away my past self’s feelings. “Y-you can't do that!” That surprised him, as his glowing eyes stared down at me. I spoke again “The Guardians are still here.” The rest came up. “I'm the Woods Guardian.” I said.

          A laughter roared out, and I could feel it shake the very ground. “The fates have humor about them don't they!? You. My servant is a Guardian. I'll give you one chance. Abandon the Guardians.” I stared at him. For a minute it was almost as if the whirling lightning and wind and waves were quieted, as I stared at his offer. “WOODS GUARDIAN! RE-AAAAAAAGH!” I fell to the ground, clutching my head in pain. The quietness then came back in full force, roaring, louder and louder, I felt like my ears would explode at this point.

          I hadn’t fought in… God years. And now that I’m back in the saddle, but instead of fighting valiantly I’m curled up into a ball… God, I think I was bleeding from my ears at this. I screamed and screamed until my voice felt like knives pushing at my throat, but it was so damn painful. I felt hot, like a fever had enveloped me, my body felt like it was turning against me. His hands covered my vision, and suddenly I felt a wave of exhaustion come over me. And I fell into slumber…

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          • #6
            Chapter 6
            The time I regained consciousness, I was hanging from… Something. My eyes hadn’t opened yet. My entire head felt like it was in a fog. Just… I need to wake up. I couldn't shake my head, and my body felt so limp. I swear I could hear a name… Hitomi? Who’s that? My bleary eyes opened and began to look around. My senses were barely beginning to come into focus. I think I had a lot of mud on me. My wrists hurt. I looked in front of me, Shaqueena was looking at me, “Hitomi?” She said, looking straight at me. “...Hitomi?” I said in response. She was looking straight at me, but my name is Sokanon.

            Shaqueena stared at me for a second, “You… Remember us right?” “Yeah of course you're…” God my head… I felt like there was a splitting headache just waiting to erupt. In the end my mind just, stopped. The tip of my tongue but no further. “I'm sorry. My head hurts.” I said, before closing my eyes. Maybe that'd ward of this going-to-be-a-headache. “...What the hell did he do to you? Do you remember your name at least?” “Sokanon.” She just stared at me. I could feel her eyes staring at me. “...No. You're Hitomi. Don't you remember?” “I…” It sounded familiar, but any moment I tried to reach out to any memory in question… It hurt.

            “...Do you know your job?” my… job? “...I studied the past… Archeology.” No, that's wrong isn't it? “Yes. We didn't do archeology in the tribe. We were nomadic. I helped gather food, fish, etc. Why did I say that? “That's right. We’re your co-workers here.” Shaqueena said, as she reached up, trying to fiddle with my handcuffs… How did I… It hurt to think of how those got there. It hurt to think of them in general. “Hitom…” Shaqueena stopped before finishing. “Sokanon. You remember anything about your home?” “We moved around a lot. With the seaso-” “Nonono!” She called out, rudely interrupting me as she tried to pull them loose. “I mean… Your parents. Didn't you say they got you into history?” I… couldn't remember that conversation. But… “My parents studied their ancestry,” we were never that important. “to baptize them,” the hell is baptization? “and I got curious who they were as people.” That… Isn't right is it? “Yeah! Come on, he hasn’t locked everything down into it… Come on… He's trying to lock you away, you can't let him!”

            I didn't really understand who she meant… Shaqueena continued to speak to me “Come on girl. I know you're in there somewhere… Umm… What's your pet’s name, your first pet, or childhood friends?”

            “...Friends?” yeah. “I have friends, of course I have…” Wait… I recognized most of the images in my head. But… Five with outlandish hair… I didn't recognize them but… They felt important… My head hurt but they were incredibly important… The link haired one named Naomi… I let her stay away my house when she lost her own apartment. And… We're met a long time ago…

            I was ten. My parents and I had just moved over to the new town. I had to leave everyone I knew behind and I was too shy. I barely even got out my name.when introducing myself to the class. I sat behind her, by the window. I kept to myself whenever possible. I simply couldn't get myself to speak up, my voice dying as it left my lips. So I just sort of stood by myself, eating lunch by myself. I went to the swings, I could just run forward and back in the swing, lifting myself into the air. Momentum would carry me through recess, and if I got high enough, all I could see was the sky and ground. Didn’t have to watch everyone else.

            But Naomi, with her dark pink hair got curious, she came to me one day. “Hi!” She said, greeting my like an old friend. But… We barely knew each other, I didn’t understand why she was being like this. I just barely was able to answer with a “H-hi…” She sat with me on the swings, and we talked… I was utterly utterly horrible to talk to, I was so nervous, but she sat there and kept talking to me. She introduced me to her friends, like Nara and Anya. And while playing, I ended up in an attempt to catch Naomi, and in our chase she tripped and ended up scraping her knee.

            And I felt so guilty, I ended up running away from it. She was the only friend I made and I ended up hurting her and it was all my fault and… And then I felt so awful, crying on my own by a river, eventually my mind was set on a belief… That Hitomi should disappear. Hitomi should disappear, that was everything I was thinking, as I looked and began to inch towards the river. I thought I was unworthy of it and inched toward sand then…….

            I can’t remember. My head hurts. No, I’m here somehow, I didn’t die there. And it felt more and more and more important that I remember. I wasn’t even listening to Shaqueena at this point, who’s voice had practically disappeared, as I squinted my eyes, and desperately tried to remember.

            She…


            She saved my as…

            She wasn’t normal

            She was glowing.

            Bright and colorful, she was glowing, so were her friends.

            I barely recognized them until they told me.

            I know what they were though, because I joined them… And then I got her hurt again.

            Against the Darkness, her back was broken because I was careless, and she tried to save me. And it was my fault again. The images were in my heads, tears filling my eyes as everything came back. And it was all my fault that she got hurt and no matter what I’d do I could never make it up to her-

            It was like a wall broke. And I remembered how we got here.

            I looked at Shaqueena again. My eyes clear and my memory back. “...I remember.” I didn’t wait this time. “WOODS GUARDIAN! REVOLUTION!”
            A light shone out from me, the area in green. The scent of greenery and pine. I transformed before her eyes, my hair a shining and vibrant green, my dye undone. My eyes looking straight at her. The restraints I were in were broke with ease now. And I looked out, it seemed the Stone King had realized his plan had gone awry, as he was back, and behind him were a mess of zombies wearing the old armor and weapons of the viking settlers, by him the three others.

            It’s been a while, but I knew what I had to do. A mass of trees appeared around Josephine, Robert, and Alexandre, quickly forming a tight circle of wood and leaves. He sent forward his army and quickly, I put one hand in the air, shouting out “Leaf Tourbillon!” From behind me, a large gust of wind came through. A seemingly chaotic burst of leaves, but everything moving with purpose. It swept through, the air, brushing past them, to seemingly no effect at first, before the magic that reanimated them and bound them to this plane had lost its power, and his army, risen had disappeared almost immediately.
            He looked at his defeated army, surprised at how quickly I had dealt with them. “...You’re experienced aren’t you? Your soul tested in the fires of combat. But what could you have faced?” He turned a glowing eye at me. "Very well, then I’ll face you personally.” He waved his hands, and chains erupted from the ground, covered in the same now glowing runes that I saw inside the temple. They quickly began to wrap around me, but I quickly leaped out of the way- and it’s been far too long since I’ve used these. I remember the first time I had these my first action was to dodge, I swear I was reaching far up enough to hit a plane the first time, and now, here, just after a flash of heat, the air grew cold enough that I had the feeling it was the mesosphere.

            I had to get back, but before I could so much as begin to fly back, I saw the chains I leaped away from-chasing me all the way up here! I was too surprised by this to react in time, and they wrapped around me, quickly I was pulled down, the fires of reentry again engulfing me and the chains, bringing me right down to Earth, smashing down into a crater, a little bigger than a bowling lane, and leaving with bruises across my whole body.

            I moaned out in pain, but before I could get up I felt his sword slamming into my body, burying me deeper into the ground. “Sokanon. I tried to preserve as much of you as I could. It seems that was a mistake.” I tried to rise up, only to feel his boot stepping on me. “But I am merciful Sokanon. Surrender, and this time I will wipe away this new identity.” Sokanon… “That… Name… Is… DEAD!” A ton of vines flew out of the ground wrapping around Stone King and pulling him and the chains off of me. This asshole just imposed his own vision on me, and he's acting like that's who I am.

            I rise, my fist meeting his head as I leap outside of the hole, my voice calling out “The world’s moved on from you!” I said. As I landed that blow, I kept on going, more and more blows to hit him across the island as he dug his feet in. “If you think this has been something approaching difficult, then it's clear you've never faced anything like me.” what? Suddenly his hand reached out, grabbed my face, throwing me down, before stomping on me over and over, another crater in this island before kicking me at his stone temple. “Perhaps you fear losing what you have? You wouldn't even remember them, but I'd that scares you, then perhaps I can offer an alternate solution. Do you know why you joined?” I tried to ignore him, pulling up and shouting out “Rose whip!” allowing a long rose to appear in my hand, it was supposed to wrap around his hand, and let me pull him around, but instead his chained loosened the ground beneath my feet, I fell into it, and by the time the rose reached him, I was tied up by my legs, hanging upside down. On the side of it.

            And instead of attacking he walked up to me. “I am a God. I can give my servants powers. Your friends, your family. They would never accept this would they?” “...They'd never forgive me if I betrayed them like this.” Where was he going with… “You know them far better than I know anyone here. I will give you a sampling of my telepathic power. You forgot ‘Hitomi,’ the guardians, this island. You could do far better with those you care deeply about. You can be the high priest, and your friends and family as my loyal subjects, and whatever else you desire of them.” … A lot of emotions carried through here. Anger and disgust the primary ones, if he wanted me to consider that, he should have asked fourteen years ago. But that gave away to a question.

            “...Why do you care about me so much?” His eyes narrowed. “YOU WERE ONE THE HIGH PRIESTS SOKANON!” First time he yelled, resulting in a dozen punches at my upside down gut, each attack worse than the last. It hurt, I shut my eyes in pain, but as they peeked open, I saw the force he was hitting me with, he was ramping it up until the nearby mountains cracked, I could already the nearby ice shattering. He wanted me back- under his thumb, trying to make me do it with manipulation, then deals, now just pummeling me until I gave. God, I was thankful as the Woods Guardian I doesn't have to deal with digestion.

            As he relented, he kneeled down, looking me in the eyes “Ungrateful. You lived in opulence under me, and here you resist!” He used his chains to throw me across the island, myself landing near the boat. This island wasn't safe, with the storms, neither were the seas. I looked at my coworkers, and let the trees meant to protect them from harm fall away. It wouldn't do any good if this island began to collapse. Instead I formed a fallen tree trunk, large like the boabs in Madagascar, hollowed out to make a safe bridge in this weather, all the way from this island to continental Quebec.

            Everyone came to me, and before they could ask anything, I pointed at the tree trunk I made and told them “It'll hold, and take you to the continent. If I lose here, there are other Guardians. Just get out, before he sinks this island.” They Josephine, Robert, and Alexandre all ran quickly, Shaqueena stayed here, and grabbed my arm, pulling me up, asking me “You got any way to talk to the others?” I could see the Stone King walking towards us. “In my bag, green phone. But you saw what he could-” “I'm not leaving you to get your ass killed by some giant psycho.” “... I'll cover for you.” The look in her eyes, I've seen them before. She wasn't gonna listen if I told her no.

            I flew straight at him, and formed a multitude of great oaks growing from beneath to slow his charge, as he found himself blocked, having to cleave through tree after tree. Long as Shaqueena could get to the boat. He used his sword to cut them down, I kept growing oaks, eventually jumping in between the oaks, using the oaks to shield me from his eyes before I got in close for a strike. He preempted this however, the minute I got close, so damn close to nailing him in his head, his eyes flickered to mine and I could see his elbow rising up to hit my stomach.

            I was hit, and the pain I felt, I was pretty sure I was gonna end up on the moon, but before that he grabbed me with his other hand as I flew, giving me whiplash, and holding me in place with one hand as the other clobbered me, all as he shouted “Very well, if you foolishly desire to stand against me, then I’ll give you what you want, and show you the price of resi-” He stopped suddenly, and I had to open my eyes and… Oh no. His eyes they were pointed at-

            “I see your game.” He quickly threw me down, forcing me deep into the soil of the island, and while I tried to force myself up as quickly as possible, I wasn’t fast enough. “SHAQUEENA!” I cried out in a desperate attempt to stop him, but he was already at the boat, standing above her, he looked at the boat she was trying to get to. “Foolish mortals.” He plunged his hand, and destroyed the entire boat in one strike.

            “GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” A sudden cry from the Stone King… Wait, why was, he pulled his hand back, plunging into the wet sand as if trying to wipe the… The oil infested waters. He looked at Shaqueena, then me “W...What did you do!? Did you preempt… No, that’s impossible. But…” His eyes wide. “The one weakness I have, how did you think to exploit it!?” Shaqueena was speechless at first but eventually answered back… “The oil?” He looked at her. “Yes. It reeks of the death of the planet. Why would you willingly…” I spoke up this time. “...An oil rig had an accident, and the oil it was collecting spilled out.” His eyes looked around, far from our current positions… “My mind’s eye… What… What have you done to your planet?” Shaqueena was running to me, I was honestly stunned by this turn of events. “Are… Are you harmed by pollution?” “The corruption of this planet’s resources into a poison… And it’s so ever present here. Those Guardians… Fools, my rule would have… It doesn’t matter anymore.” “Wait what?” Shaqueena said. Her hand gripping mine as tightly as she could, I couldn’t blame her. “I would have conquered the stars in my prime… And now that I have returned, this planet… Is poison. And will become more poisonous as time goes on. I can’t rule over this planet.”

            He’s not going to conquer the planet? I stayed silent. Thinking about it… This person… Well, he was a person. Not like the Darkness, he could be reasoned with… “You know… You don’t have to conquer the world. We can find you a place away from the pollution, a reserve to-” “Do not insult me! The only thing left for me is death.” “That’s not true I-” “I am reduced in this state. And to choose between living sequestered like some endangered animal, or to eventually become so quick as to be unable to walk on my own… I’d rather die.” I…

            I didn’t have a response to that. I just watched what may be the oldest person on the planet, look back at the oily water, and walk into it… Eventually dissolving completely, leaving only the stone he wore, now little more than rock. And looking at it… I couldn’t help but think about Naomi, and what he said. She couldn’t walk either, and this man just walked to his death to avoid that fate… I…

            Shaqueena shook me. “You think it’s over?” “...Yeah.” “You don’t sound to happy.” I looked at her… “I’m sorry.” I went over and got my Guardian phone, the one thing that managed to land in the sand. Josephine and Robert came back with the paramedics in an air ambulance. I had transformed back into my normal self and let myself get taken in. They gave me some light treatment for the head injury I suffered a while back, they didn’t know what happened of course, I didn’t want to be known for magic powers, and even then, what would we have said?

            We came back, reporting what we could while not mentioning it. None of us really said anything about it, we just… I suppose agreed to keep it secret. I took some time out, recover from the injury I said, and I suppose to be fair I did end up fighting him… But overall, after all this, especially with Stone King… I needed to say something to Naomi.

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