1.3: Students Of FHA

Koren’s body is locked in place behind a door. His legs and bent and cemented. He breathes through his nose, too scared one breath will catch in his throat, forcing him to swallow or cough and reveal his location. His arms are at risk of tiring as he keeps his katana raised and at the ready. Ever since he heard the mass exodus of guards from the freshmen rooms, he’s been unsure if the thumping in his ears is his heartbeat, his imaginary heartbeat, or soft footsteps outside.

     Koren promised Professor Zathony that he’d protect Carnya and Syl but he’s not sure he can protect himself. Parker (his tutor and boss from Avhava Beach) taught him a handful of moves but he’s not practiced them since coming to Four Hearts. Even worse, he hasn’t been able to call his mom all week. He got so used to the deal they made when he skipped school that once he showed up, he still called her every morning and night. He was embarrassed when he did while Nuria stayed with him. And now…

     I really, really, really hope I get to talk to her tonight!

     Koren nearly jumps out of his skin when glass shatters nearby, followed by the clatter of objects on the ground.

     Wait, are those–

     The door Koren’s posted behind is broken down and slams against him. He and the door clatter down the stairs into a white and blue room full of gym equipment. Koren rushes to his feet and looks forward to a pair of men racing toward him. He hesitates to lift his sword when he sees the armbands with white heart designs.


     The man in front kicks Koren into the weight rack. The young man yowls when his tail is stomped on, then he’s raised by his shirt.

     “Freaks like you are why we’re ending this school,” the man says, hate for the combo of Koren’s whiskers and katana blazing in his eyes. Koren’s used to that hate, that disgust. He’s felt it from Syl and Carnya to some degree but the look in the man’s eyes has only been matched by rare tourists at Avhava Beach and the Piranha BBQ at Jupiter Mall. It’s the kind of hate that explodes in the veins along the edge. It’s the look he learned from his older brothers.

     The only one on campus to ever show him the complete opposite was Nuria. The Pure took her away.

     And I’m next.

     “Hey, we got two more over here,” the second man says, nodding to Syl and Carnya shivering in the corner.


     “You get them. This freak’s mine.”

     Koren drops his katana and grabs the man’s arm, sinking his claws into his flesh. When the man hollers and drops him, Koren’s next move is a favorite of his youngest older brother, Kenyon- a kick to the crotch. Next, he mimics his third youngest older brother, Keaton, and jumps down with an elbow to the neck. He knocks out the first man with his eldest brother’s, Kolton’s, trademark- slamming his head into the back of his target’s so hard that theirs slams against the ground and doesn’t come back up.

     Koren defies his headache and grabs his katana. He’s ready to emulate his fondest friends, Parker and Nuria. “Hey!”

     The second man turns away from Syl and Carnya and freezes. He didn’t expect the commotion to be in Koren’s favor based on his spooked demeanor.

     “You two just sit there. I’ll cover both of you!”

     And just like that, their shivering stops.

     “Oh yeah? And who covers you?” The second man unveils a pocket knife.

     Koren breathes slow and easy as he removes his katana from his sheath. The single-edged blade whistles as it’s withdrawn, the metal sparkling in the bright room. He bends his knees and grabs the narrow hilt with both hands, the blade resting at an angle over his left shoulder.

     “Do you even know how to use that thing?”

     He hears Parker’s voice call to him clear as day.

     A katana is a precision tool. Never thrust. Your strongest maneuvers are parrying and slashing, typically together in one fluid motion. The move I taught you is a proper self-defense attack. Confusing, I know but trust me. And trust your instincts.

     “Why don’t you say that to my face?” Koren says, a taunt that always worked on his brothers. It proves to be another similarity the two men share with them.

     Koren grinds his blade against the pocket knife, slides forward, the slices across the second man’s forearms and chest. The second man freaks out and clutches his chest, only making the bleeding worse until he passes out. Satisfied when he stops twitching, Koren wipes the blood off on the man’s shirt, then sheathes his blade.

     “You two go and hide on the higher floors,” Koren orders his classmates.

     “W-what are you gonna do?” Carnya asks.

     “I inherited a rare set of genes. I’m done hiding them!”

     Koren races up the stairs two at a time. He pauses in the foyer only briefly when he sees Headmaster Kaz’s fangs broken on the floor. He bares his own as he barges outside the dorm walls.


     Evic peeks through his door then silently sidles into the hall. He glides down the spiral staircase and throws on a white jacket to hide his avian dimensions. He comes face to face with a sea of FHA guards. The ones fully clothed in the school’s security uniform are unconscious, being dragged away by the ones who’ve swapped the uniform shirts for armbands with white hearts on them.

     They beat the security team so quietly. Guess it makes sense my father would direct the strongest to my house.

     Evic steps forward as he reaches into his jacket. Just above his longsword is an armband identical to their own. “Listen up. I’m–”

     One of Victa’s soldiers drops his cargo and lunges for Evic in one fluid motion. His grip stuns the young man so much that it sends his longsword and armband to the floor. Evic grabs the man’s arm and gains enough leverage to finish his speech.

     “I’m Victa’s son. Unhand me!”

     The soldier scoffs, disgusted. The veins in his eyes explode with hate. “I don’t take orders from Bigene filth! I could care less who your dad is! I’ll take all you mongrels out!”

     Evic keeps himself from squirming. “He’ll kill you.”

     The soldier expresses a twisted sense of pleasure. He leans close and whispers, “Who do you think gave us permission? Your usefulness is moot now.”

     Evic’s heart sinks at the same time his brain tries to counter that claim. The image of him and his mother- a woman with sun-kissed skin, emerald eyes, and a head of curly raven locks- reunited grows darker as he comes to recognize the cold and pragmatic nature of his father. His father’s deal is complete with Nuria’s death and his victory over Four Hearts will propel him into leadership over The Pure.

     I’m a liability… I’ll never see my mother again!

     He stops resisting as the image is eaten by a vacuum in his heart.

     The soldier recoils his fist. “That’s more–”

     A plain-looking scabbard slams down on top of the soldier’s head so hard that his neck snaps instantly. Lauron falls on top of the corpse and stares viciously at the other soldiers. She removes her broadsword from the plain-looking scabbard while kicking Evic’s sword back to him.

     “Not the time for statue mode, Evic. If you’re in this, then be in this!”

     Evic watches in stunned silence as Lauron dashes toward the soldiers with focus and abandon, the entire length of her blade coated in lime-colored energy. She cuts them down with barbaric fashion, moving with no grace and the force of a rampaging elephant. He lifts his blade and rises, an invisible weight stuck to his ankles.

     One of the people he can’t stand has saved his life. The soldiers he swore to assist have tried to kill him. Four Hearts Academy is being destroyed. Neither of his parents seem to want or have a future with him. He unsheathes his blade and charges forward as Lauron’s cornered. He lets his deflated heart make the next choice.

     He’s speechless as he dashes past Lauron to cut down the soldiers flanking her from behind. She presses her back to his as the soldiers tighten the circle around them.

     “Gotta admit, I didn’t think you’d beat me down here,” Lauron jests while breathing roughly.

     “You were gonna come down here alone?”

     “Letting others fight for me is embarrassing enough! I’m not gonna sit back while these animals roam free!” She dashes forward and cuts down another one at the ankles. “Gotta put ‘em in their place!”

     Evic absolutely refuses to laugh in her presence again but he smiles as he makes a clinical strike for each barbaric attack of hers.


     Wallace’s shivers amplify for each crash and bang he hears. The cursed laughter of the vandals sends chills down his spine. Even if he weren’t hidden from them, the air trapped in his lungs would never pass his lips. He’s used to spending hours completely calm, still, without a care in the world. He’s none of those now but his lungs still obey.

     He nearly cracks when the door to the boys’ dorm is kicked in. His mortality is now dangerously clear to him. Only sixteen years of life and now his only grace is the sand around the room that Dig molded to conceal the underneath of every bed. Wallace prays none of the vandals has a brain and kicks the sand around.

     “Looks like they hid the brats, too,” one of the vandals says.

     “Those damn professors are crafty,” says another. “Those other guys will have a hard time finding the headmaster.”

     Wallace furrows his brow. They’re after Neth? Why?

     “Whatever, there’s another dorm to check,” the first vandal says.

     Wallace flinches, hoping the girls were able to stay still, too. His heartbeat increases frequency with each footstep away from the boys’ room, rising to a crescendo when he hears a scream from the girls’ dorm. He shoves his hands into lint-filled pockets as he bursts through the sand. He’s gotten away without having to use his powers too much since starting at Four Hearts but that gamble’s gone. Streaks of sand fly off of him as he runs headfirst into danger, calling out the reason why.


     The two vandals turn away from a cornered Barry and are blinded by flashing yellow light emanating from Wallace’s charged hands. Yellow sparks bend and twist around his palms, the technique passed down the generations of his family. Their electrical power is the secret to the power plant they run. He’s next in line to carry on the “Lightning Palm” technique but he abhors the legacy, wanting to make his own choices.

     And now, in an attempt to save the girl he’s argued that point to the most, he uses the power to disrupt the vandals’ nervous systems, purposefully using only enough voltage to paralyze and not to cripple. He takes a full minute to safely disengage the technique then faces Barry.

     “You okay?”

     “Yeah,” she answers absently, staring at Wallace fervently.


     “Just…surprised. You’re not usually a man of action.”

     “Shocked the hell outta me,” Dig teases.

     “Ditto,” Donovan states.

     “Whatever. Sutar, you can–” Wallace blanches when he sees the sand barrier around her bed destroyed. “Where’s Su?”

     “I don’t know,” Barry says. “She left a while ago but I was too nervous to follow. I think they found me be- Where are you going?”

     “There’s only one place she’d risk going!” Wallace shouts as he races away.

     Donovan catches up with him. “I’m coming with you!”

     “Good because I can’t repeat my earlier performance too much more.”

     Damn it, Su! Hang on!


     Aven waits at the end of the hall hidden in the shadows with the aid of his clothes. A pair of Pure agents walk to the door straight ahead of him. As soon as they push it open, he runs forward hastily. The veins on the edge of his eyes explode as he gazes upon their armbands with wroth.  When they notice his approach, he slides onto his knees and slices all four of their ankles. He whirls on his knees, keeping his back against the wall, and shouts, “Now!”

     Roy freezes in place on the stairs but Pan leaps off as planned and fires hot pink energy arrows at the agents that detonate on impact. She lands gracefully next to Aven then the duo rises triumphantly.

     “Nice shots, Eagle Eyes.”


     Aven fires an annoyed look at Roy. “And you, shape up! This is do or die! Your next time freezing up could cost your life! If you can’t hack it then stay here with the rest of the cowards!” Aven cuts a look of rebuke to the older Ohaida students hiding behind Roy. “Let’s go, Eagle Eyes.”

     “Right behind you.”

     They both hike up their weapons as they march down the spiraling staircase. Aven gets a few steps ahead of Pan, hot blood coursing through his veins.

     The Pure is taking nothing else from me! I was helpless last time! Now, I’ll shove their tongues so far down their throats they’ll never forget the taste of defeat at my hands!

     Aven fully kicks down the Ohaida House door clinging to one hinge. He pauses and whirls in the doorway when a rush of footfalls resonates from inside. Roy joins him and Pan at the door.

     “I have my act together. I’m coming.”

     Aven sees the confidence in his stance. “You’re coming with me. We have to keep the damage away from the dorms. Everything between here and the courtyard is our responsibility.”

     Roy nods. “Roger that.”

     Pan queries, “And me? What do I do?”

     “Head to the security tower. Go to the roof and snipe anyone you see wearing those dumbass armbands. Once you’ve downed at least three dozen, descend and reconvene with us. At that point, being together will be critical.”

     “You got it.” She turns but doubles back. “Be careful, okay,” she says with naked pain.

     Aven watches her and chooses his next words carefully, aware her reaction to Rum’s fate is far from over.

     “With you watching my back, I’m sure I will be.”

     The stress leaves Pan’s body and she runs away with a clear focus.

“Let’s go,” Aven orders, ready like never before to spill blood. His scythe shines in the light but he soon intends for the metal to reflect how vicious he feels.

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