Nuria doesn’t have time to revel in the fact that her internal singing works to bring out her flames, even in this stressful situation. Instead, as she charges for Liamria, all she can recall is her anger from the year prior. This woman sent assassins after her, Tyra, and her brother and his classmates, ruined the Freshman Derby, and nearly upended her daughter’s entire life. Liamria’s freedom has kept Nuria and Stark apart long enough.
I just got one sister back! It’s time to get the other one, too!
“I’m gonna enjoy kicking your ass again!” Nuria shouts, leaping from the bank and cocking her right fist back.
Tyra’s warning comes too late. Liamria smirks wickedly with crossed arms, the river churning around her. Despite her stationary position, two streams of water target Nuria. One extinguishes the flames on her right fist, the other slams into her side. The phoenix goes sailing toward the bank, but the same two streams shackle her ankles and drag her back into the river. Even up to her shoulders in the water and constricted tightly, she looks Liamria in the eyes furiously.
“You know, I appreciate how unlike my daughter you are. At your age, she was nowhere near as fearless. Too timid and too weak. That was my Stark.”
“She’s not your Stark!” Nuria argues, fighting to break loose.
“And just what do you know about family? Have you ever had a daughter? Do you understand a mother’s bond with her child is unable to be severed?”
Nuria forces herself to rejoin, even when she feels Liamria’s restraints tighten. “What I know…is that a child…has every right to…choose their family! If her manhunt targeting you didn’t tell you that, then allow me! I’ve beaten you there, too! Stark is my family, not yours!”
“Why, you little–”
The second Nuria feels her underwater restraints loosen, she headbutts Liamria and raises her hands. Her body is wrested from the river by Tyra flying overhead and grabbing her wrists.
“That was too risky, Nuria. Fighting a hydromancer and hydrokinetic person so close to a river is tantamount to suicide.”
“Yeah, sorry, I lost my temper. But it worked on her, too. Let’s get out of here!”
“I don’t think so!”
The duo turns and flinches as they witness Liamria gain on them using her powers to make liquid launchpads, taking them like a staircase straight to them. The moment she’s above Tyra, she delivers a kick between her white wings. The angel stays airborne until the crazed mother morphs her legs from solid to liquid and slams both feet against her back.
Nuria barely manages to soften their fall with an impromptu burst of mezzo flames. The phoenix scrapes her hands and forearms in an attempt to arrest her momentum and brace for Liamria’s next attack. An outstretched liquefied arm grabs Nuria by her throat and slams her against a tree.
“Nuria!” Tyra moves to free her, but the angel is pinned by an even larger hand, the palm crushing her to another tree.
Nuria stares down the length of the liquid appendage, irked by Liamria’s homicidal calm.
Damn it! No way to beat her without my golden flames. My normal ones are too weak. Gotta stall for time to think of a way to bring them out.
“You can…do your worst…but I’ll never help you…hurt Stark!” Nuria protests.
“Your compliance doesn’t change anything. Me killing you today is going to strip away at her until nothing’s left. She’ll blame herself for not being here to save you and no amount of counseling will heal her, because I will make certain she learns the truth of your demise in a brutal fashion! I will tear you limb from limb, then stitch you back together, and lastly hang your corpse over the porch of our old family home! Oh! Or I could…”
The phoenix drowns out Liamria’s sickening taunts, her nightmares of horrific deaths more traumatizing, and she suspects they’ll return en masse after today. At a point, she can’t tell if what’s salting her lips are sweat or tears. Her vision starts to blur as she runs low on air. An idea strikes.
Maybe I leave this to my inner phoenix. It always seems to come when I lose consciousness. Plus, it can use my golden flames on command. Yeah, that’s my–
“–but first, there’s what to do with Ms. Tyra,” Liamria says, the mentioning of her now sister triggering Nuria out of her head. “Oh, did you think your death would be swift? No chance. I’m going to take my time crushing the angel over here, and you’re going to watch.”
Nuria lashes out at the hand choking her. “I’m not watching anything! I’m going to–”
Tyra’s screams make Nuria shiver down to her soul.
Shit! I don’t have time to fall unconscious! I need my golden flames now!
Nuria desperately beats at the arm holding her throat hostage, but she can’t ignore Tyra’s screams for long. Once she turns her head, the hand on her throat tightens, making it impossible to look away. The palm constricts Tyra more and more every second. Nuria squirms out of rage and pain, the latter brought upon more by helplessly watching her sister’s life in jeopardy, the former more directed at herself for being too weak to stop it. She feels the air trapped in her throat increase in pressure, sure she’ll be close behind Tyra in death.
Why? Why?! WHY?! Why can’t I save my sister! I’m in the Hero’s class and can’t act heroically! It’s one life! I can come back, but Tyra can’t! I can’t let her die…but I’m too weak alone! I’m…I…I–
Liamria’s twisted laugh rings throughout the area. “That’s right, ladies. Scream all you like. Fearless as you were, the fury of a pissed off teenage girl only works so long. Now, you can–”
Following after Liamria’s head, the limbs subduing Nuria and Tyra burst apart like bubbles. Grinding to a stop between them on soaked boots is Koren. He whirls before stopping, on all fours, fur standing on edge, his fangs bared.
“You are why I hate men,” Liamria says even before her face fully reforms.
“Keep your hands off my fr–”
“Koren, get down!” Tyra shouts, reacting to Nuria pointing from her mouth clamped shut to her ears and then to Koren. Tyra pins Koren down, pressing his ears to his head.
Nuria summons her wings and suspends herself ten feet off the ground. She glares down at Liamria with expanded irises and enlarged pupils, focusing on the crazed mother’s face as it fully reconstitutes. The second her throat was released and she felt the air pressure rattle against her teeth, she knew that she was successful in invoking her power, just not the one she thought of. With all the fury a pissed off teenage girl can muster, she opens her mouth and screams.