Liamria rounded their war table, a map of Four Hearts Academy taped down at the corners. Various stamps are applied to the separate buildings. The dorms (minus Ibri House), and the security tower are labeled with stencil heart stamps. Fiery stamps are planted on Ibri House, the library and cafeteria, as well as the administrative building. The fiery stamps are connected by color-coded lines (blue, green, and orange), detailing three different patterns. However, none of them travel to Ibri House, which is instead surrounded by a black circle acting as a barrier to the carnage aimed everywhere else.
I’ll burn it down myself once I’ve taken care of that professor bitch. Or should I make her watch?
“Good to see you taking my plans seriously this time,” Victa said, standing between her and the tents’ entrance.
“I have no choice. That professor bitch is dangerous. Not even you are safe from her.”
“I wonder if you’d say that if she were a man,” Victa teased.
Liamria eyed him crossly. “I’d have killed her long ago if she were a man.”
Victa held a laugh behind a coy grin, then he straightened and nodded to the entrance.
Liamria followed suit as one of Victa’s clones walked in, escorting a trio of guests, then combined with the original through vibration. The guest in the middle, a tall man with auburn hair wearing a tight muscle shirt and black dress pants, shook his head tightly.
“That’s bizarre to see in action,” the muscle man said.
“Ignore him. I called you here,” Liamria said.
“And this time you’re getting your money’s worth,” the muscle man said. “Thankfully, Saario and Kari’s connections to Underworld were never made public. I mean, Kari had a future with us but Saario was always one setback from collapse. Barron regrets sending him, so he sent us here with this for you.” He handed her an unmarked red envelope. “Read it now.”
Liamria cracks the seal and reads the missive, growing more and more excited by the information it contains. Starting with the muscle man, Lia pointed and identified her guests. “Lato.”
She pointed to the man on the right. “Ra’am.” Ra’am was dressed in similar tight clothing but his shirt was sleeveless. A full quiver was strapped to his back and a longbow was in his left hand.
Liamria pointed to the stout woman on the left. “Charlotte.” Charlotte wore only a dark sports bra and bike shorts, her muscular frame on display. Her brunette hair was cut short.
“Look, you three, I plan to incorporate you outside of all of this,” Liamria gestured to the map, stamps, and colored lines. “I summoned you for particular reasons that will send ripples through the whole world. Never before has a headmaster of Four Hearts Academy been murdered. Lato, Ra’am, I’m giving that chance to one of you.”
Lato narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “You don’t want that credit?”
“I’m in this for personal pleasure. Making history is not my objective. Now, our people on the inside have told me the headmaster is in a coma but his location has been well-guarded since I put him in it.” Liamria tapped the security tower and admin building. “These two locations are the most likely safe houses for him. When our army attacks from the front, you two will infiltrate from the rear and hunt him down. Ra’am, you take the security tower. Lato, I’ll leave the admin building to you.”
“My target is a woman too dangerous to leave to you. An Ibri with an unfortunately incredible combination of powers.”
Lato nodded tightly.
“What about me?” Charlotte queried. “Why am I here?”
“We’ve found mystery funding coming into Four Hearts Academy from a national treasury. Given the student body, it became clear which one. Your target’s demise, in combination with the death of a headmaster, will cement the chances of this school’s revival at zero.”
“This will be The Pure’s greatest victory!” Victa declared.
Liamria leered at him outside the corner of her eye. His greatest victory, he means. His success will cause some stir in the ranks. He better know that the blood won’t stop with this school.
“What’s the target’s name?” Charlotte asked.
Tyra shivers uncontrollably as The Pure’s army vaults over the onyx gate. Tears flow as the bulk of the army ignore her and the professors, instead opting to tear down and destroy everything in their path. Stone tiles are cracked, windows are shattered, and doors and walls are broken down. While some remain to destroy more, others move on deeper into the campus.
Tyra blinks the tears away, sharpens her eyes, and tightens her fists. The crimson light surrounding her fists turns alabaster.
I failed to save Nuria! I won’t fail to save Four Hearts Academy!
Tyra races toward the nearest member of The Pure and raises clasped hands.
“Tyra! Get down!” Tameri shouts behind her.
Tyra doesn’t listen, insistent on attacking, then she’s snatched and dragged against the ground by her neck. Her breathing is impaired by a bird’s leg around her throat but the fear comes when she sees that it’s connected to the woman in the dark bra and bike shorts. She raises her other leg to strike at Tyra’s face.
“Your motker sill…”
Tyra manages to breathe as Charlotte stumbles away, convulsing violently from her arms-turned-wings to her talons. Pools of blood stain her abdomen and jugular purple. Blood and bile leak from her mouth. When Charlotte falls forward, she reveals Tameri standing with her sword drawn, facing the opposite direction.
“I appreciate your bravery, Tyra, but this is not your battle,” Tameri says.
Tyra looks down at Charlotte, her convulsing slowing down. As her feathers shrink into normal arms, Tyra knows that from the bluish-gray tint on top and white on the bottom that she was a peregrine falcon, a bird of prey capable of flight speeds up to two hundred miles per hour.
Tameri was able to cut her down so fast…
Tyra looks back up at Tameri with greater respect for her abilities.
She’s right. This is her battle. She’ll be the one to defeat Liamria. Tyra looks at the madwoman and sees her shaky expression. And she knows it!
“But I have a mission for you,” Tameri continues. “Aven’s gonna need help. Head to Ohaida House ASAP.”
Tyra spreads her angel wings, their moonlight glow visible beneath the cloudy sky, and they carry her above the carnage. She ignores it now in favor of increasing her chances of reversing fortune.
I know my strength now. The Pure knows it. But they don’t know the strength of this academy! They’ll learn the hard way!