2.6: Monster

The second Nuria’s fist collides with the ice wall erected to fit the courtyard entrance, she feels her body temperature plummet.  If not for her stockpile of solar energy, she’d be at risk of hypothermia. Even now, the blood from her knuckles freezes against the ice. The golden fire around her fist extinguishes in seconds.

     “Ow,” Nuria grits as she shivers. Where’d this ice come from? It’s stronger than Tamara’s!

     The phoenix tries to wrest her fist loose but her bruised knuckles are locked in place. She prepares to use more of her stockpile when a shadow overhead cuts off her connection to the sun. When she looks up, her eyes and mouth open wide and her legs wobble.

     A very large robed figure stands even taller than the ice wall, which is already over thrice as tall as Nuria. The tall monster’s hood hangs over and hides its face but when it snorts, clouds of breath cast a pungent odor into the air.

     Did the ice come from that?

     Nuria looks closer and sees that the monster’s shoulders carry three other robed individuals with masks on. Those three individuals stand together on the right shoulder. Victa and Liamria reside on the left shoulder. Nuria focuses more on the former, waiting to identify who among them- if not the monster- summoned the ice.

     That’s the one I’ll have to take down first!

     “My, what a mess you’ve made of things,” says the masked man with arms folded behind his back. “All of your careful calculations dismantled by mere professors and school children. A regrettable outcome, indeed.”

     “You say it like we’ve lost?” Victa argues. “Reddic is no match for any of you alone. Together, you can–”

     “Yes, we could, but that is not the arrangement. If you wish to command us, you must be capable of the same.”

     Even as clear as the words are for Nuria to hear with the noise of battle silent behind her, she doesn’t want to trust them. She’s seen only glimpses of Reddic’s strength and believes what he hasn’t shown her to be greater than the foes above. The more she thinks about it, the angrier she gets over them underestimating her mentor. Her groans rise into shouting as she rips her fist free from the ice. Without hesitation, she lifts her shredded, bloody fist to the sky and ignites it with gilded fire, everyone on the monster’s shoulders looking directly at her.

     “That’s big talk from the back of your beast! I dare any of you to say it to my face! Or if you prefer, I can come to you!”

     Her wings op from her back, dazzling gold flames swirling in the air for a few moments. Reddic and Stark join her. All three stare up at the new foes with sharp, resolute expressions.

     The tallest masked individual reveals a husky laugh. “I’d love nothing more than to melt your flesh, little girl.” The air around him is aglow with crimson light as electric currents surge. “But we know you have authorities en route to trap us here.”

     Nuria narrows her eyes. That jackass isn’t the icy guy. That leaves the other guy and the shrimp.

     “Our next encounter will come soon enough.” The crimson lightning fades.

     “As long as Ibri House exists, Four Hearts Academy will never again be safe,” says the man with folded arms.

     Victa lowers Liamria’s body and stands. “Your kind is not long for this world. Avinia’s primal world will return, and those with new era bloodlines shall all be extinguished!”

     The shortest robed individual raises their hand. In just a second, they emit light so blinding, using the icy barrier as a magnifier, that all Nuria can see is pure white space. She keeps from needing the blink only because of her phoenix vision. She hears the grunting and falling over of people blinded by the light. A hand grips her shoulder and she immediately tenses.

     “Stay calm, Nuria. I’m with you,” she hears Reddic say, though is unable to see him. Not even the hand on her shoulder. “You can pierce the light like me. Focus on the energy in your eyes and channel it.”

     Nuria does as directed but it’s easier said than done. Thanks to her training, she’s become more sensitive to the energy swirling inside of her. Heat and solar energy are cooperative but her phoenix vision has always been more rebellious. Even now, it doesn’t obey her command until it’s too late. She pierces the light and ice just enough to witness five silhouettes retreat.

     “T-They’re gone,” Nuria says, her voice cracking.

     All at once, the light vanishes. Nuria whirls in a full circle. Stark and the conscious professors recover their sight quickest.  Rum, Shuri, and the other red-eyed students fight off the daze in fits of bittersweet relief. Every conscious Pure agent that was in the courtyard moments ago is gone.

     Nuria stares at the ice wall in disbelief. The perpetrators that came in and ransacked Four Hearts Academy have escaped justice. Her peers are wounded and afraid. Not ten feet away from her, Professor Tameri’s body lay unmoving. She glowers through her tears, pressure swelling in her throat. The ice wall shatters into fine snowflakes. Nuria dashes through the open gate and releases the sonic voice. The sonic waves blow every leaf off the two trees nearest her.

     The phoenix sinks onto her hands and knees in the trampled dirt. The leaves flutter around as her body ignites on her arms, back, left thigh, and right foot. Her clothing and the leaves that touch her burn away, the young woman unable to quell the sorrow, rage, and guilt darkening her heart. She wants all of the perpetrators back, monster and all. She wants them to feel how she does. She wants them on their hands and knees. She wants them to burn.

     She wants them dead.

     The fire on her back is extinguished by gentle patting, as are the flames on her arms, thigh, and foot. The gentle hands lift her by her shoulders, then drape a double-breasted vest over her. She brokers some resistance to the hands pulling her close but Reddic’s sorrowful smile undoes her. She slams her head into his chest, eyes and nose leaking across his shirt and she weeps.  Wherever her outpouring of emotion incites combustion, Reddic extinguishes the flames.

     “Let it all out, Nuria. I’ve got you.”

     “Why?” Nuria cries. “Why do they hate us?” She hiccups as she raises her head. “What did we do to them?”

     Reddic loses his smile before he answers. “It’s nothing that we’ve done, Nuria. It never is. From the moment we’re born, Ibri become the enemy of people like them. The hate that they direct at us is a deflection. The trails they face and the pain they experience, they use those to find a reason to justify their hatred of Ibri. None are valid.

     “Right now, you may be thinking of revenge or that you hate them. Cast those emotions aside. I’ve come to know you quite well and your bubbly, rambunctious, and spirited attitude is precious. Do not trade those for rage, destruction, and blood.”

     Nuria nods numbly, wiping her face dry. She doesn’t know how well she’ll succeed at controlling those emotions. Never before has she felt such a deep hatred for anyone. On top of the extreme vandalism and pain, today will always be the day Professor Tameri died. She sees her brother crying beside her body, eyes burning red from more than just the light attack. For as much as she’s come to treasure Reddic, she knows Rum feels all that and more for Tameri. She’ll have to see the sorrow on his face whenever they remember today and have to fight to control the anger she feels not just for herself, but for him as well.

     Her phoenix vision kicks in once more. The shadows she sees don’t only belong to Rum, Professor Marmagar, and Stark, but to the body they gather around, as well. Nuria opens her mouth to call it out but Tameri’s body lurches forward as a pained gasp escapes her lungs. Her bloody coughing spell alarms the trio gathered around her. Whatever she whispers to them gets them to lift her together and march toward the dormitories.

     “You’ll be okay, professor! Leave it to us!” Rum cheers. His face is no longer racked with fury but ebullience. His professor is alive and he intends to keep it that way. His renewed cheer bolsters her in the battle against her rising ill will. She huffs through her nostrils.

They haven’t taken everything from us yet!

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