Act 02: Secret of the Leaf Star
“That’s just too weird!” Hatemi said after Dionne had finished telling the others what had happened the night before. Hatemi Summers was the sehashi warrior known as Fate. She went to the same university as Dionne, but they had very few classes together. She and Cory Davis, who went by the codename of Shield, formed the other half of what had come to be known as Team Archer.
“It’s really odd. They look kind of like us, but no one’s seen them before,” Hana added. She went on to describe their white uniforms in detail, going right down to the style of the women’s hair and color of their eyes.
“White uniforms?” Cory asked, her eyes wide.
Dionne frowned. “Yeah. They were simple, but elegant. Why?”
Cory shook her head. “Peltoren said something about white uniformed sehashi a few years ago. They’re supposed to be really powerful.” She snapped her fingers. “Guardians! That’s what they’re called.”
“What would a group of super strong sehashi be doing here?” Hatemi asked.
“I don’t know, but they seemed to be on our side,” Kousei said.
Yan snorted. “That’s a nice change. The last few sure weren’t.”
There was a collective moment of silence as they recalled their last encounters with more powerful sehashi: Draco, Monoceros, Ophiuchus, Phaeton, Eridanos, and the five Ssu-Ling.
“Let’s just hope they stay that way,” Cory said.
“I assume that, like all sehashi, they had codenames? What were they?” Jin Ae Song asked. She and her boyfriend, Corentin Blair, had joined the others for this meeting, along with Jin’s older sister, Hyun, and Dumia Heart. In uniform, Jin, Corentin, Hyun, and Dumia became Team Typhoon: Typhoon, Storm, Vega, and Silence.
“Two of the girls were called Starfire and Starleaf, but we didn’t get the name of the third or the boy’s name.”
Dionne fingered the emerald green pendant around her neck. Once it had facilitated her change into her sehashi identity but she no longer needed its help. Her pendant served a secondary purpose, however, allowing Laira to travel with her.
The long-deceased sehashi now known as Laira was her spirit guardian. She usually resided in the mirror on her vanity, but occasionally followed her around inside of the pendant she wore on a chain around her neck. She wasn’t there at present, as the crystal was cool and dull and not the warm glowing green it would be if she was there. Since the defeat of the Ssu-Ling, Laira spent more and more time in the vanity and less time guiding the sehashi.
“They’re clearly not local, that much is for sure. When I went to that big meeting a few months ago, I saw a lot of sehashi from all over the world. Except for the Olympiads, all the uniforms were like ours. I didn’t see anything like the ones they wore.”
“Life’s going to real harsh really soon,” Hatemi said, sighing. “So much for a social life!”
Yan rolled his eyes. “As if you had one in the first place.”
“One thing’s for sure, I hope they’re really on our side. Those things we fought don’t think too much about our powers,” Dionne said.
“In the meantime, though, we should just carry out our patrols as usual,” Hyun told them. “There’s no sense in letting this interfere with our lives until we really know what’s going on. Just keep your eyes open and contact the rest of us if you find anything or learn anything new.”
It was a nice day out, a perfect fall day. The dark-skinned girl found a quiet spot under a tree, leaning back against its rough bark with her eyes closed. The subject matter in her classes hadn’t been difficult to understand―far from it, actually―but the stress of dealing with her situation was exhausting mentally and physically.
She opened her eyes to find that a short girl with grey hair had joined her. She smiled. “How did your morning go?”
“Awful,” the other girl grumped, pushing her dark lensed glasses further up her nose before taking a bite of her meat filled sandwich. “These people are noisy, nosy, and they smell!”
“We knew there’d be some quirks to adjust to when we came here.”
“When we get home the database needs to be updated to mention the stink they put off.”
“Surely you’re exaggerating just a little?”
“They’re not.” Another girl joined them, her nose wrinkled in disgust. “My nose isn’t as sensitive as Hunter’s, but they still smell funny. I’ll grant you they aren’t as irritating to my nose as the vast majority of the raishuten, but it’s still bad.”
“Thanks for having my back on this one, Ember,” Hunter said.
Ember shrugged. “Don’t expect Indigo to understand things like this. Her people don’t have noses like ours. At least the scarves I’ve been wearing help to mask the smell a bit.”
Hunter shook her head. “How did your Ancestors ever manage to survive with such weak senses of smell?”
Indigo shrugged. “By not living on a world where the habitable zone is always dark or by being crazy enough to live in that frying pan Ember calls home.”
“If we’re knocking each other’s home, then by all means let’s talk about that endless puddle you live in,” Hunter said.
Ember shuddered. “How about we don’t and change the topic?” she pleaded.
Indigo laughed. “You might want to hide that particular phobia of yours from the locals. I’m pretty sure that a fear of water as severe as yours isn’t normal here.”
Hunter fiddled with the container her sandwich had been in before putting it back in her bag. “Nothing we would think of as normal is normal here,” she grumbled. “Take my sandwich for example. The bread was fine if a little on the bland side but the meat tasted dead.”
Ember and Indigo exchanged a glance. “By definition meat is dead,” Indigo said.
“You don’t understand. It tastes like meat but there’s no…substance. It’s like someone who didn’t understand what it’s supposed to taste like made it in a lab.”
“I…think I understand what she’s saying,” Ember said. “It tastes fake, not like the fresh kills she’s used to.”
Hunter snapped her fingers. “That’s it exactly! Everything here is exactly the same. It makes my skin crawl.”
Indigo sighed and shook her head. “It’s only temporary; you know that, don’t you? It’s not so bad once you get used to it.”
Hunter stood up and slammed her fist into the tree above Indigo’s head. The bark snapped on impact. Her silver eyes flashed in the noon sun. “I refuse to ‘get used to it’! I didn’t want to come here in the first place! I just want to end this all and go home.”
“Calm down. It’s not like we can do anything about it,” Indigo said, fiddling with the ends of her long black hair.
Hunter smiled grimly. “Now, there’s the irony. We can’t, can we?” She turned and walked away. She headed for a secluded grove of trees on the edge of the campus where few students went. She knew she could go there and not be bothered.
A girl screamed nearby and Hunter ducked behind a tree. Cautiously, she peered around it and stared in shock. Waromik and Oshisalon. I should’ve known! Well, this I can do something about. After all these years it was a matter of seconds before her clothes melted away to be replaced by her pristine white uniform.
Starleaf walked out, but quickly ducked back behind the tree. It was that girl again, the one from before, the brunette who appeared to be in charge. The others from before were there, too, as well as some new people, sehashi that she’d never seen before. They were being throttled by a lafodyu and Waromik. Starleaf shook her head and jumped out from behind the tree.
“Earth Healing Light!” she shouted, sending a beam of leaf green light at the lafodyu, returning it to its original human form. Pointing at Waromik, she yelled, “Double Snake Twist!” The twisted beam of yellow and blue serpents shot out from her crossed wrists.
Oshisalon screamed in pain as the blue snake hit him. Waromik managed to dodge, but his arm was singed as the blue snake passed by.
Starleaf looked at Oshisalon. “You’d better have a good explanation for this, Oshisalon.”
“Starleaf? How are you doing? We haven’t chatted in ages,” Oshisalon said.
Waromik howled, launching himself towards Starleaf.
“Nice to see you, too, Waromik.” Starleaf grabbed his wrists and sent him flying towards the sky.
Archer turned. “Thanks for your help, Starleaf!”
She bristled. “Look, whatever your name is…”
“Archer,” she told the strange girl. She introduced the rest of her fellow sehashi.
“Whatever. Look out!” she yelled, turning around. “Motion Pause!” She was aiming at Oshisalon who’d begun to sneak up on the sehashi, but he dogged it easily, laughing.
“Lusol Anie!” the tall, dark haired haired warrior said calmly, grinning, pointing at Starleaf. She fell to her knees, clutching her throat in pain.
“Peridot Scream!” Phantom yelled. Quiarinite shrieked and clutched her ears.
“Opal Boomerang!” added Fate
“Frost Lightning Smash!” The others stepped back, as Archer’s attack was often unpredictable and could just as easily hurt friend as foe.
The three attacks were aimed at Waromik who had appeared behind Starleaf, shaking from the effects of Oshisalon’s attack. One of Archer’s lightning bolts hit Starleaf on her right cheek. A thin red line appeared, followed by a thin trickle of blood.
“I’ll be back for you!” Waromik called as he and Oshisalon vanished.
Fate applied a cloth to Starleaf’s cheek. “Are you going to be ok?”
Starleaf stood, still a little dizzy. Her face had a sickly cast to it. “It’s just a scratch. It’s the effects of the poison that I need to worry about. Thank you. I’ll return this cloth next time I see you.” Starleaf leaped up into the trees and vanished. The sehashi watched her go.
“Well, that was interesting,” Shield said after the green-haired guardian disappeared. “How did she know their names?”
“I get the impression that they know each other from somewhere,” Balance said.
“One thing’s for sure, she seems to be on our side,” Phantom said.
“Seems is the right word, Phantom,” Balance warned. “We can’t be sure that we can trust her.”
“We can’t stay here and debate the issue. Some of us have class to get to,” Phantom said.
Hunter was late getting to her next class. When she arrived, she handed Doctor Davies a note. He read it and nodded, indicating that she should take her seat.
“Hey?” Dionne whispered. “Are you ok?”
“Hmm? Oh, you mean this?” Hunter asked, fingering the scratch. “It’s kind of dumb, but I got hit in the face by a low hanging tree branch on my way back from the health center. I wasn’t feeling well. Must have been something in my lunch. The cut started bleeding, so I went to clean it up as the bell went,” she explained.
“Oh. Well, I’m glad you’re ok. I’m Dionne, by the way.”
Hunter hesitated a moment. “You can call me Hunter.”
Dionne seemed satisfied and turned her attention back to the lecture.
Well, at least the last part of my story was true. It’s way too easy to pull one over on these humans.
“What happened to you? You’ve been quiet since lunch,” Ember said, sounding very worried, getting off the bus near the apartment the girls shared.
“Do the words Lusol Anie mean anything to you?” she asked in a frosty tone.
Shocked, Ember stopped in her tracks, feeling a sudden chill. “You confronted them without us?”
Hunter turned around, walking backwards. “What choice did I have?” she snarled. “These sehashi don’t have a chance against the Dorensha Jelushadaar. Ancestors, the lafodyu alone could’ve taken them all out. I saw the battle and changed. There was no time to think.”
“Oh.” Ember hurried to catch up with her tiny friend. Short Hunter may be, but she could move fast when she wanted to. “So, what’s with the scratch?”
Hunter laughed. “Actually, it’s real,” she said, showing Ember the cloth Fate had used to stop the bleeding. “The one called Archer provided that during the fight.”
“How kind of her,” Ember drawled. She shook her head. “I don’t trust these sehashi.”
“It could be worse. You might want to look behind us,” she said.
“Why?” Ember asked, turning anyway then rolled her eyes and kept walking. “Are they following us?”
Hunter shrugged. “It’s likely. I’m pretty sure they don’t live near us.”
“There’s something about those three that just…rubs me the wrong way.” She shuddered. “Even Indigo thinks they’re weird, and you know how trusting she can be.”
“What is with you lately, Kousei?” Yan asked, rolling his eyes.
“First Dionne, then Emmy, then that one we won’t discuss, and now her,” Teir added.
“There’s just something about her that’s driving me crazy. Besides that, she’s gorgeous.”
Yan rolled his eyes again. “Here we go again. Kousei, just talk to her and get it over with and spare us this time, ok?”
“You’re no help,” Kousei said, offended.
“So stop acting like a love-sick puppy. Don’t talk about her, don’t even think about her if that’s all you’re going to do,” Teir said, impatiently.
If only it were that simple, Kousei thought glumly, looking across the street at Ember and Hunter as they looked back at them talking quietly. All I see are her eyes, her endless, brown eyes. Who are you?