At the front of the lecture hall, Professor MacDonald droned on about some apparently important historical event. Hana yawned and sighed, looking at the clock on the wall above the door. Two minutes had passed since the last time she’d checked. She looked down at her lap and picked a piece of imaginary fuzz off of her light blue designer jeans before straightening the strap of her equally stylish black tank top. She pushed a stray strand of her long dark hair out of her face before picking up her pen and doodling in her notebook.
I don’t understand why we have to take any of these classes at all. We save the planet on a regular basis and all the thanks we get is some positive publicity and this nonsense day after day. At least I’m not stuck in a school uniform anymore. It’s nice being able to wear what I want to school even if it sucks to be here. I get that this is basically a free ride for saving the city a couple years ago, but it’s not like college tuition would have been a big deal anyway. Not with how much dad makes.
He sent Blaine to Rising Star a few years ago with no problem and it was always the plan for me to go, too. He was all too happy, though, when the Mayor’s letter arrived announcing that I’d received a full college scholarship. He saved a ton of money and I’m stuck in this stupid history class. Why do I need this for Environmental Science anyway?
In the long run, what good is this stupid degree going to do me? It’s not going to make me a better sehashi. At some point I’ll have to choose between having a so-called real life and fighting monsters and I don’t think I’m ready for that. I don’t want to be ready for that.
Hana sighed and tapped the end of her pen against her check. I’d much rather be training than sitting here. Even if I had to pair up with Shield, it’d be better than this.
She looked at the brunette sitting beside her. Dionne was utterly engrossed by the lecture. Her legs were crossed beneath her long grey skirt. Hana made a face and looked over at the other side of the lecture hall.
The tall, dark haired captain of Stargazer University’s basketball team, Kousei, looked half asleep. He leaned back in his chair, his long legs stretched out in front of him. Beside him, Teir looked as though he was as interested in the lecture as Dionne was. As usual, his right hand was clenched into a fist and he was taking notes with his left. He’d hurt himself pretty badly during their fight against the Ssu-Ling a couple years before and had suffered permanent nerve damage. He often joked that it was a good thing he was left-handed or school would be really hard. His friends weren’t fooled; they knew it still hurt him.
Sitting in a chair right in front of Teir, Yan had a novel hidden inside his textbook and was reading that instead of paying attention to the lecture. Yan had the most bizarre fashion sense out of anyone that Hana had ever met. Today he looked like a normal person, clothing wise, but the combination of black pants, yellow shirt and black suspenders was the tamest outfit he owned. Then again, he probably had been practicing dance moves in the gym before class.
Most likely practicing for that production he’s been boring us to tears about for the last three weeks.
The lesson was interrupted by the Dean of the University, Doctor White, entering the classroom. He pulled their Professor aside and had a few words with her. The Dean left and she came back to the front of the classroom.
“It appears that we have a few late enrollers,” she said, trying to look pleased with the news, but failing miserably. “Our city is growing faster than we can keep up with.” The door to the classroom opened again and two new faces walked into the room: both girls. “Take a seat so we can continue on.”
The taller of the two was dark skinned with mounds of black hair piled on top of her head. She took an empty seat beside Teir. She pulled out a small binder and a pen from her school bag, poised to begin taking notes. Her attention was focused intently on the front of the lecture hall.
The other one took an empty seat not far from Kousei. She had her long black hair pulled back in a simple braid. When she was standing it hung down to her waist. Her school bag was in her lap as she was browsing for something. What could be seen of her skin was dark but nowhere near as dark as the other girl’s. She was dressed in thick layers that were more seasonally appropriate for winter than early fall.
Professor MacDonald resumed her lecture as the shorter girl pulled a white binder and a blue pen out of her bag and began taking notes. It was a little strange as most of the other students had laptops. Kousei kept glancing at her.
She must have sensed him watching because she looked over at him and frowned. Kousei quickly turned away, embarrassed.
The room was almost pitch black. Its walls were made from black stone with no decorations to break up the colour. Artificial lights were placed at wide intervals but they didn’t give much light. This was the way she liked it. Very few of her followers were permitted entry into this room. Those who were either learned to adjust their eyesight if their eyes weren’t naturally inclined to see well in the dark or they pretended to.
A throne-like chair was the only visible piece of furniture in the room. Even then it was barely visible, it’s back rising high above the woman seated on it. Everyone else had to stand or kneel before her. A long, velvety black carpet led to her throne across a floor made from black marble shot through with white veins. No one dared to walk upon it for fear of her wrath, for only she was permitted to tread its length. The carpet cut a long path through the circular audience chamber.
At her command, a dark-skinned woman stepped out of the shadows and dropped respectfully to her knees, the tattered remains of her wings folded uselessly behind her. She wore a simple grey uniform and black boots, the same thing worn by everyone else in the room. She eyed the throne with a mixture of awe, fear, and respect.
“Chaudyu, I have not yet located the targets. The search continues, though. We have found some likely prospects,” Quiarinite said from where she knelt. Her voice as empty and unfriendly as a snowy wasteland.
The woman in the throne picked up a long slender file and began to file her claws into sharper points. “Oshisalon. Report!”
A tall man with muddy brown hair and striking black facial markings appeared beside Quiarinite. He knelt in front of the throne before speaking. “Unlike my colleague, I have news that you will like. I have discovered the location your targets have fled to. It is protected by a band of sehashi warriors, but their powers are nothing compared to that possessed by you and your shepaki. Even with their combined powers, they couldn’t even harm one of us. Although, Chaudyu, I caution you. These warriors must not ally with those we seek, or we might not succeed.”
“Might not succeed?” She hissed in displeasure.
“A very small chance.”
“Very well. At least you’ve managed to locate them.” The woman nodded. “Shihachu. Rashuwo. Waromik. Report!”
They appeared and, as one, dropped to their knees. They all had the appearance of large bipedal felines and wore the same grey uniforms as everyone else.
“Our search has borne no fruit,” Shihachu said, his voice a low cattish mew.
“We continue to look,” Rashuwo added, her voice low and soft.
“We won’t fail you,” Waromik said.
“You’d better not. You all know the penalty for failure. Dismissed.” They bowed and disappeared. When the room was empty once more, she stood and walked to the center of her throne room. “You think you’re so clever, don’t you? Coming to this primitive town? I will find you, Starfire, and when I do, I’ll make you wish you’d surrendered your cheikau to me in the first place. They will all be mine!”
Dionne Archer. The quiet, typical girl next door with her long skirts, braided hair and blouses was the sehashi known as Archer. She was generally considered the leader of their team of four as she was the first one to discover her identity.
Hana Dawson. Fiery of spirit and extrovert extraordinaire, she became the sehashi called Pyre. She was the second one found and Archer’s partner by default at first and by preference later on. Their powers worked well together.
Kousei Prince. Personable yet egotistical, he led the group known as the Trio when he became Knight. The three of them had known about their sehashi identities from a much younger age than any of the others. In spite of that, they weren’t quite as strong as the others and knew it.
As they neared one of the city’s many parks, Knight heard a woman screaming for help. “Let’s go check it out,” he suggested. “It might just be a robbery, but things have been a little quiet lately. I could use some action.”
“Move away from her!” Pyre yelled at the girl’s five attackers.
“It’s not nice to gang up on people like that,” Knight added.
One of them turned to face them. His features strongly resembled some sort of cat. “Well, well, well. What do we have here, Rashuwo?” he asked, licking his lips, long fangs showing.
“These must be those local sehashi Quiarinite was talking about, Waromik,” Rashuwo said, her voice a low growl.
“Let’s go have some fun with them,” the third agreed. The three cat-like people charged the sehashi, who assumed fight stances. A blue haired woman with tattered wings stood off to the side, arms folded across her chest, watching with interest.
“I don’t think so. Garnet Laser!” said Knight, pointing towards the cat people and their companions.
The woman dodged, as well as Shihachu and Waromik, but Rashuwo’s leg was singed. She hissed in pain.
“You meddling little nobodies. You’ll pay for that!” She charged at Knight, claws extended.
A foot swung out and kicked her out of the way. “I’m glad that you showed yourselves,” a woman’s voice said. “It saves us the trouble of tracking you down.” The foot’s owner was standing beside Knight.
She was dressed all in white. Her pants laced up on the right side with skin showing through the laces, a red armband on her right arm, and a white sleeveless top that showed her midriff edged in red along the bottom. Her belt was black with a large red diamond shaped jewel for a buckle. A red band wrapped around each of her otherwise bare feet. Her long reddish hair was tied back in a ponytail. The scarlet eyes that peered out from beneath her long bangs had no pupils but were far from vacant.
“Starfire, how dare you interfere!” the woman hissed.
“Nice to see you, too, Qiarinite,” she said. “Now kindly crawl back to whichever of the seven hells spawned you. You don’t deserve those wings.”
“Hand it over Starfire,” Qiarinite demanded. “Surrender now and our Chaudyu might be merciful.”
“The key word here is might. The day you get it is the day you pry it from her cold, dead body,” a new voice said as a woman walked out of the brush. Her white outfit was similar to the first woman’s, but her accents were all light green. She turned to Starfire. “I took care of the lafodyu,” she said, and then spat on the ground beside her. “The poor girl was so badly shaken up that she couldn’t move.” She turned, looking at Archer and the others, giving them a strange look. Her long green pony tail hung behind her.
“Please don’t do that, Starleaf. It’s a disgusting habit,” another new voice said, this one male. His uniform was the familiar navy colour sported by every sehashi they’d encountered so far, only his short-sleeved shirt left his entire midsection exposed. He wore navy shorts and what appeared to be knee high socks. His green hair hung loose in his face, obscuring his eyes.
A taller girl with dark skin walked up behind the others. She had cyan highlights to her outfit. Her sea green hair was pulled up into a ponytail at the top of her head. She looked around, her deep blue eyes taking everything in. “Nice to see that we’re all here.”
“And then some,” Starleaf said, indicating the sehashi. The four newcomers exchanged a brief puzzled look.
“They have nothing to do with this, so let’s just finish up and go home,” Starfire said.
“You’re awfully brave, taking us all on at once. Kåshwáu Harato!”
“Water Wall Surround!” the dark-skinned girl shouted. The two attacks collided in a blinding blue-white light.
“Flaming Disk!” Starfire’s red power surrounded the five in angry red flames.
“Double Snake Twist!” With Starleaf’s added attack, the flames became a pair of writhing red and silver snakes.
“We’ll be back!” Quiarinite said as they teleported away.
“Well,” the unidentified male sehashi snorted. “That was productive.”
“They’ll show up again and when they do, we’ll be ready for them. They won’t get away from us this time. For now, though, let’s go home.” They nodded and left, jumping up into the trees as Archer yelled at them to wait and asking who they were.
“Who were they?” Pyre wondered out loud. “I’ve never seen anyone like them before.”
“I’ve never seen uniforms like those before,” Archer added.
“Whoever they are, I hope they’re on our side.” Knight stood looking at the place where they’d vanished into the trees. The others nodded in agreement.