Faith laughed, “No daughter, I have a lot of work to do, and I don’t have time to take time off.”
“I’m at your disposal, of course.”
Faith nodded, “I need you to find me one more for him for now: someone who is powerful, just like your great great granddaughter.”
“What persona is he seeking next? As far as I know he can’t have Death, which also means he can’t have access to the spirit world, so no analogues to Kris.”
“No but he thinks he's going to have a persona of hate and loathing; what he's going to get next his equivalent to Love and Lust. Do not tell Bethany, but she will be stronger than her, but equal at the same time because his persona will have two jobs.”
“How is that... Ohhh,” she nodded, making that same perfect ‘o’ with her lips that Bethany had made earlier. “Oh man. I bet Marry was worried about her counterpart. Bethany’s the one who’s going to have a cat fight on her hands.”
Faith giggled, “No, I think those two will be very good friends... if not more,” she added, giving Jenn a wink.
“Ahh! Eww! Did not need that mental image!” Jennifer laughed. “But I’ll try and find someone who’ll compliment Bethany. Hey, what about Sarah?”
“I can’t use Sarah in my war with my brother, Jenn. I’ve used that poor girl enough as it is. Besides she’s got a place between me and him soon enough. Balance is going to be enough of a job for her.” Faith smiled. “There is that boy that Bethany punished. Can you see his future?”
Jennifer giggled. “Oh, the one Taylor almost got Bethany in trouble over! Talk about having your heart in the right place. I do like her.” She cleared her throat though and nodded. “I can try right now if you’d like? He’s in Alpine Springs, so it’s a lot easier.”
Faith grinned. “Sure. Then we can set up his meeting with her.“ Faith opened a mirror portal to watch the young boy dressed and enjoying being a young girl, “She is pretty isn’t she? My heart aches for girls like her. Boys her age can be so cruel sometimes when they don’t understand things.”
“She’s really transgendered?” Jennifer asked thoughtfully. “I thought Bethany was just using it as a punishment to teach what life’s like from our side at that age, after the way she attacked Taylor and her friends.”
Faith nodded, “Bethany didn’t know at the time, but she does now. She’s been keeping an eye on the young girl, but she can’t watch her forever. Let’s see what her future holds.”
Jennifer carefully wrapped her arms around Faith even as her hands began to glow a soft, greenish white. “Take my power and make it yours,” she whispered.
Faith took the power Jennifer offered and focused it on the mirror portal to show them the potential fates of the girl before them. All of them seemed to end up with her beaten to death by her old friends. Some turned out ok, but none of them turned into a happy life for her.
Jennifer flinched, and several seconds of silence passed as she stared blankly at the mirror. Finally she broke her silence. “I’m... confused.”
Faith looked up at Jennifer. “About what daughter? How a beautiful child like that could be abused like that?”
“I thought Sunshine Academy was supposed to encourage kids to explore who they are, including gender, but in at least five of those possible futures, it’s the kid’s former friends - and in one, her classmates, who beat her six ways from Sunday.”
“Those friends of his aren’t from Sunshine. They are from outside, and sometimes kids can just be cruel no matter how much tolerance you teach them.” Faith sighed. “Free will is a bitch, as you would say.”
“I guess you have a point,” she answered with a frown. “But still... Becoming a persona at that age... I’m worried about the repercussions, especially while he-slash-she is still trying to deal with and cope with Bethany’s punishment. But at the same time that could work out to your advantage, making him-slash-her appear to be an easy target.”
Faith nodded. “It’s either that or let her die young, and I’d rather her in this situation live a lifetime under my brother’s care. And he will care for her. I know him. His hate is for me and me alone. He will love her like a daughter - as I love all of my children.”
Faith used the last of Jenn’s energy that she had borrowed to set things to work. taking herself and Jenn to the site to watch. This time though, she brought Nari back as well.
As her ancient lover materialized, Jennifer nearly knocked Faith down sprinting to Nari’s side. “Nari!” she squealed happily, scooping her up in a hug that swept her off her feet, and spun her around once before kissing her. “I didn’t expect to see you so soon!”
Nari giggled and lay her head on Jennifer’s shoulder. She looked as though she wanted to say something more, but hesitated. “It is good to see you again as well, my beloved Island Princess.”
Faith giggled, "Now is not the time, you two love birds. All good things come to those who wait," and then winked.
“Can they see us?” Nari asked, still a little stunned by the sudden teleportation, but apparently understanding what was happening.
“Not even my brother will know we are here. That is your many many greats nephew. She is destined for greatness soon, so lets just watch. You won’t like what you see soon, but I promise it will end well.” Faith sighed as they stood outside the park watching the young girl play and some young boys watching her from a small distance. “I have foreseen this as the most likely of the girl’s futures. It pains me greatly, but I cannot interfere. And neither can you.”
The boys walked closer to the young girl playing. “Well if it isn’t the sissy-fag boy,” the older boy called out.
“Go away Mick!” the young girl cried.
The older boy looked at the other boys, “Ha ha! Go away? You think you can order US around now, you little bitch? Should we teach this sissy a lesson?”
Nari struggled to get out of Faith’s hold to help protect the boy, “No! Let me go Faith! She doesn’t deserve this!”
Faith held Nari tight along with Jennifer on the other side with a sad look on her face. “Nari, it has to happen for the events that are set to unfold. I am so sorry.”
“I promise this will end well,” Jennifer whispered despite her own tears.
The bigger boys surrounded the young girl and started to beat her, kicking her on the ground till she was unconscious. The older boy named Mick, kicked her in the head as they walked away. Suddenly the raven haired older man popped in to the scene with a flash of light, and his face was stricken with much sadness and grief. Jennifer thought she could see tears glistening on the man’s cheeks as he knelt.
“Oh my dear child,” he cried softly, “Stand up, and know no more pain.”
The child stood up and opened his swollen eyes. Despite the severe injuries, she seemed to be in no pain whatsoever. “Who are you?” she asked in a broken, confused voice.
“I am that is who I am, as she is who she is. This has saddened me child. Come closer. I took the name Hate, but I am not Hate.. “ His voice carried strong overtones of grief. “Your lineage was not meant for such an awful fate. Let me help you.” His body began to glow a rosy red color, and he embraced the girl as a father hugging a frightened child. He let go of her again, and then offered her his hand.
“Child, take my hand and forever you will be my persona of Hate. I can carry the burden no longer, but you... You know hate like no mortal could. I see it in you now,” he wept for the young boy/girl, not realizing that he didn’t create Hate at all. “Do you hate those boys that did this to you?” he asked, as the girl accepted his hand, and the red energy flowed into her body.
Nari looked to Faith, “Did he really make her the Persona of Hate? Why did you let him do that?!”
Jennifer gently nudged Nari’s side and pointed at the scene, whispering, “Watch what happens next, my love. You’re going to like this.” She almost giggled as she said it.
The young girl looked at the man, but she didn’t answer right away. After several seconds passed, as her wounds began to mend themselves, she shook her head softly. “I don’t hate anyone. I don’t hate Bethany either. She opened my eyes to what I am,” she replied with a childlike innocence, shocking the older man.
The man dropped to his knees in front of the child, “You can’t defy my decisions sweet one. Unless...” the man craned his head around slowly and scowled. “Dear sister, I know you are there somewhere. Show yourself.”
Faith grinned knowing he would know, as this was all part of her plan, but remained unaware of the other two present - at least for now. She stepped out of nowhere into existence once more and gave a little curtsey. “Hello dear brother. I see you found your next persona?” she asked innocently.
“You interfered Faith,” he growled as he stood to face her. :What gives you the right to do such things? You are still the brat you were when you locked me away. I should have ended you when I had the chance.”
Jennifer’s soft laugh carried on the breeze at that, and she stepped through to reality, holding Nari’s hand. “Hello old man,” she said with a cheerful smile.
“Wait! I know you... You are Jennifer in this life, and in that body, but I see your true name etched upon your soul, Spirit Guardian... and that must mean you are Nari?” he looked them over, “You two have changed much. You both have.”
“A lot has happened...” Jennifer answered simply, holding onto Nari’s hand firmly.
“Only a child of my creation can defy my word. She is yours then Nari?” the man looked at his Nari.
“She is, but I am no longer yours, Father. I belong to Jennifer and she belongs to Faith still so I am Faith’s. I’m sorry.” Nari looked at the man before her who she once called her god.
The man stood up and looked at his sister. Anger, but something else as well, flashed in his eyes, “You take my children now too Faith?”
Jennifer stepped forward now, putting herself between them. “No. I chose to follow Faith, but it was not a decision I made lightly. I chose, for the good of humankind, to follow Faith in your absence.”
Faith put her hand on Jennifer’s shoulder and shook her head, “I have this dear child, this is now between us.” She walked around Jennifer and put a finger to her brother’s chest. “You will listen while I talk. I have two thousand years of a story to tell you in a short time.”
Jennifer followed Faith, but only so she could kneel beside the child, whispering, “Are you okay?”
The girl nodded her head as she watched her new father and her aunt, “I’m ok Jennifer,” she answered, looking a little confused, not sure how she knew the older girl’s name. Jennifer nodded, gave the girl a gentle hug, and then stood to return to Nari’s side, watching Faith and her brother carefully.
“This feud dear brother almost made me destroy existence. I left earth for a long time after I locked you up. I came to figure it all out in a short time as I observed humans. I fell in love with them.
“I’m sorry I touted my power over your head, back then, and I’m sorry it seems that I’m doing it again, but I am not. I’m trying to help you. These two Personas I could have taken. They are very powerful in magic, but instead I offered them to you.” she sighed, “Can’t you see I’m asking you to forgive me?”
He looked deeply into Faith’s eyes for several seconds before responding slowly. “I am older then you Faith, but you were born as the universe and I, stuck with the subverse. How do you call that fair? A spoiled, petulant child given the greatest power in all the cosmos.”
Faith looked into her brother’s eyes as well, her light blue eyes shining in the mid-afternoon light. “It isn’t fair, you’re right, but whatever created us chose that for us, not you nor I. We are just what we are, big brother. I’ve grown up despite this body, and I’ve learned much. Watching my friends, who would become War and Death, suffer, and be murdered, for being true to themselves was the second-greatest sorrow that I have ever felt. It changed me.”
Bethany, Kris, and Marry chose that moment to make their presence known, albeit by quietly stepping up behind Jennifer and Nari. Marry lay her hand on Jennifer’s shoulder to let her know, as Bethany peeked out from behind Kris, using him as a shield.
The young girl that was just turned into a persona was joined by a blonde girl who put her arms around her and held her, standing near the raven haired man.
“You’re asking me to forgive you. You tricked me into taking the two most powerful mages you could find and turned them into my personas so you could ask me for forgiveness...”
He looked at the two young people standing near him, and then turned to Faith and hers. “I forgive you, sister, if you forgive me. But I have a request. These two belong in this universe, not the subverse. Will they be allowed to continue their lives here, or should I forbid it on your wish?”
Bethany looked at her former student then to her mother and back watching as the last of the young girls wounds healed before her eyes, and a beautiful young girl took her place. She grinned proudly.
Faith stared into her brother’s eyes for several agonizing seconds, as if she were searching for something. Finally she giggled and threw her arms around him. “Of course they can stay! I would not dream of forcing them out, even if you hadn’t accepted my apology! They, as you, are always welcome here.”
He smiled as he hugged his sister tightly whispering in her ear, “I still won’t abandon my goal of getting those two twins. You already have a set.” He winked.
Faith laughed. “Free will, dear brother. I had nothing to do with what happened earlier today. And the other two are merely under my protection. However, I will concede this much: they are traveling in circles of my influence. The new Coven will invite them to join, and I plan to bless that coven, and allow its expansion. My plan was to do this, with or without the children though.”
Eric chuckled at what Faith said, “Still dear sister, a good jest of a game, I want them, but I won’t use my magic to influence the game, I promise.”
Marry casually strode over to her new counterpart, looking her over as she looped her thumbs in her pockets and slowly walked around her, giving her an appraising glance. The blonde watched Marry nervously, and jumped a little as her elder counterpart stuck out her hand.
“Name’s Marry. Think you’ve got what it takes to keep up with me?”
The blonde, still not over her mortal coils yet shyly took Marry’s hand, “Like um, maybe? We’ll see I guess?” she smiled a little however.
Marry laughed, pulling her into a light hug. “I’m just messing with you dearie. Welcome to the ‘family’ - Both of you.”
Bethany looked at the girl who moments ago looked beaten to death, then looked at her uncle and mother, “So what persona is she?”
Faith giggled rather sheepishly as she turned to Bethany, still hugging her brother tightly. “What is the opposite of hate, my little princess?” she asked as if posing a riddle.
“Love? But I’m Love!” Bethany complained. She wasn’t in her adult form, which made the outburst even more adorable.
Faith giggled, “Yes but the Subverse had no persona of love until now. Her job won’t interfere with yours.”
Kris cleared his throat, leaving his post of guarding the two not-yet-but-almost personas to approach. “Um, about that... Could one of you crazy kids explain to us not-really-gods what a subverse is?”
Faith giggled and Eric laughed as he spoke first, “The Subverse is a part of the universe that co-exists with this one, except in the subverse things run slightly differently. You can’t tell me being Death you haven’t been there to take the dead to the afterlife yet?”
Kris stared blankly at the pair. “Gee, Faith, you think you could have mentioned that eighty years ago? Man, I’m going to catch hell from a friggen MOUNTAIN of pissed off souls for this.”
“You should have known Kris. You can feel the dead can’t you?” Faith grinned. “You should see about that soon.”
“S’cuse me, folks. I’ve got some catching up to do,” he grunted, vanishing for a moment. And reappearing a moment later next to Marry. Before he could say anything, she laughed and pressed a finger to his lips.
“Yeah, yeah. I waited this long, I can wait a few more days. Go. Reap.”
“Thanks,” he answered sheepishly, kissing her cheek. He then turned to Jennifer and Nari. “You two: you’ve just been conscripted.”
“Huh?” Jennifer asked, blinking.
“You’re a Spirit Guardian. You’re the most powerful spirit user in existence. You and Nari are going to help me clean up this mess. You DO want to spend more time with Nari right?” he asked, grinning broadly.
“Well since you put it like that... Let’s go reap some souls!”
Nari giggled and kissed Jennifer’s lips as the three faded from view.
Bethany giggled a little as she approached the newly reborn Alexa. “Umm... Sorry about... All this. I really was trying to help you.”
Alexa turned to Bethany and giggled, throwing her arms around her. “I know what you were doing for me Bethany. I realized it with the help of Taylor and her friends, and then I figured something else out. I realized that I wanted to be a real girl. I didn’t want to admit it, but I LOVED shopping with you. I had to stop myself twice from calling you Mom that day. And now I am a real girl, like Marry was once a boy and now a girl.” she babbled, though she wasn’t sure where she got that information from either.
Bethany giggled at the confused look. “You’ll get used to that feeling, by the way. So, um, does this mean I’m not going to be your principal anymore?”
“Well I was kinda hoping I didn’t have to go to school anymore, but Father wishes me to continue attending so I can learn what it means to be a Persona from someone who’s been doing this job for awhile.”
“Yay! I’ll personally help you.” She paused and grinned. “Besides, you look damn cute in a plaid skirt,” she added playfully.
“Can I atleast pretend to be a high schooler?” she giggled.
Bethany laughed. “I suppose, but then what’d we tell your new friends?”
Alexa frowned a little then smiled, “Well I know they would be happy if Alexa got adopted and had to move away. I mean they would be sad for awhile, but then they would be happy for her.”
“Good point. We’ll put our heads together and write some super-super-super sappy story about how Alexa moved to be with her new family in England and how she has walk-in closets full of beautiful things to wear, and never ever has to worry about being hurt again.” Bethany clapped her hands together excitedly and giggled, bouncing up and down.
Alexa grinned, “In my high school girl form you can call me Trisha or something, I don’t know.” she giggled, watching Bethany’s excited bouncing.
“Oooh!” Bethany suddenly squealed. “I’ll create a new teen version of myself so you’re not starting over alone! I never got to be a teenager either.”
Alexa reached out for Bethany’s hand. Both girls being the persona of love from different sides of the multiverse already knew their fate, but neither seemed to mind. “Let’s go shopping then! I need a teen wardrobe and so will you.”
“Awesome! So, you’ll be Trisha... I guess that makes me... Um.. Annie! You know, Beth Any.” She giggled as the pair faded from view, leaving just Faith, Eric, Marry and the subverse War.
Marry looked at the new girl with a grin. “You any good at chess?”
The girl’s eyes lit up. “I LOVE chess! But like, I can never find a partner because everyone thinks I’m like, just a stupid bimbo. Oh I forgot to tell you my name”
“Lisa right?” Marry answered with a grin as the two faded out to go play a game of chess.
Faith smiled at her brother. “So a friendly wager on the twins?”
“How about, if I win you renounce your powers to me?” he answered with a clearly teasing grin.
Faith giggled, “You know I can’t do that. But how about this, If you win, you get the next powerful magic user to have as another persona, otherwise if I win, I get that person?”
“You really have changed, haven’t you?” he answered thoughtfully as he lightly tousled her hair.
Faith giggled happily at his touch, resting her head against him. “Yes I have. I learned a lot in a short period of time.”
Eric smiled down at Faith and kissed her forehead. “Then you’re on.”
Faith nodded. “Deal. But don’t take it TOO personally if Ashleigh throws you out on your ass. She is a strong-willed one, even without me getting involved.” She winked.
Eric laughed, “How about I create a new mortal to counterbalance her? Eh, one without magic.”
“That does seem fair. I’ve had years to set things in motion so I’ll also let you see what I’ve been doing so you’re not trying to play a game of chess with my half of the board completely covered.”
Eric hugged Faith, “I trust you. I trusted you before; I just went mad with how much power you had and how little I had. I’m so sorry Faith. Seeing that little girl suffer broke my heart so.”
Faith giggled to herself. “I know, big brother. It’s good to have you back.”
“It’s good to be back. Lets go see your home, shall we?” Eric smiled as they both disappeared from the earth.
Back at Sunshine Academy Bailey and Jonelle knocked on Angel and Casey’s dorm door. “Are you two busy?” Jonelle called through the door.
“Be right with you!” both girls called wearing bath towels around themselves as they quickly picked clothes to wear to greet their visitors so they wouldn’t be naked. Both girls quickly dressed, and Angel answered the door, “Mr. and Mrs. Summers, what are you two doing here?
Bailey smiled, “Well we are here for two reasons. Reason one, I know that it’s not been more than 24 hours since your parents passed away but me and Jonelle were wondering if you wouldn’t mind if we adopted you?” he asked, giving the girls a smile.
Jonelle smiled as well, “The second reason is we wanted to welcome you to the school.” she turned around and picked up a tupperware case with a apple pie in it.
“Adopt us?” the girls asked in unison, too stunned to even notice the offer of pie. Casey spoke up first.
“But... You hardly know us.”
“It’s not that we’re ungrateful,” Angel continued.
“It’s just really surprising,” Casey finished.
Bailey and Jonelle nodded, “I know that it seems fast, but both of us had read your reports and why you are here, and it breaks my heart that your parents treated you both so poorly.” Jonelle sighed, “Just give us a chance, and get to know us as well. I’m sure you both will love being our children.”
The girls both giggled, Angel responding, “Sure, there’s no harm in that.”
Casey nodded. “You both seem nice, and we were serious about looking forward to your classes.”
Bailey grinned, “We live in the teacher housing on this side of campus, but you two can continue to live in this dorm room if you want. We won’t be that far away, and you both can come and go in our home as you want.”
Casey frowned thoughtfully for a moment. “You guys do know what Pink House was set up for? I mean... Why I’m here?”
Bailey and Jonelle both laughed and Jonelle spoke up, “Casey, we know all about you and your sister. I teach the girls side Magical Arts class, and Bailey teaches the boys how to control their magic, so we also know you were a boy as well, and we don’t care.”
“Magical what?!” they both answered in unison, utterly shocked.
Jonelle blushed, “Sorry, dear. You weren’t to know that yet. Go ahead and ask Jolien, and she’ll explain it to you. Unfortunately Bailey and I have to go meet with Bethany and the new vice principal.”
“kaaay...” the girls finished each others’ thought perfectly. As the two adults left, the girls raced across the hall, pounding on Jolien’s door. “Jolien! Jolien tell us you’re home!”
Jolien answered her door, her hair wrapped in a towel and anotherwrapped around her body, “What?” she looked at the two a little annoyed..
The girls froze and stared for a second or two. “... Sorry,” Angel began.
“It’s just Jonelle and Bailey just said something REALLY crazy and then ran off. They told us to ask you.”
Jolien looked between the crazy twins for a second. “What did they say to you then?” she asked, motioning for the two to come in so they can get out of the hallway and talk in private. Jolien’s roommate, the girl from the espresso stand, was sitting at her desk finishing some writing on her laptop. She glanced up from her writing, but the typing continued.
The girls stepped inside, but glanced at Jolien’s roommate for a second before answering. Angel stood up on her toes, cupping her hand over Jolien’s ear because she just knew this was going to sound completely insane. “She said she was a magical arts teacher. I think she’s gone ‘round the bend this time,” she said, quoting her favorite movie.
Jolien giggled as she fell onto her bed looking back at her roommate and girlfriend, “Our two twins here have begun to delve the secrets of Sunshine, Cassidy. Mrs. Summers has told them about her special class.”
The pair turned in unison from Jolien to the girl identified as Cassidy, completely unblinking, and then back to Jolien again. “You’re all insane,” they answered in unison.
Jolien shook her head, stood up and pointed to the door. The girls almost thought she was telling them to leave but as they turned around the door was gone and instead was their bedroom on the other side of the frame. “Chaos magic at its best, no? I also know that you two used your magic twice at the mall!” she added cheerfully.
The twins looked blankly confused.
“Where do you think Danielle’s shoes and the gelato came from - thin air? Lacy and I were watching you two the ‘ole time.”
The look on the twins faces was priceless, as if a lightbulb went off over their heads.
“Cassidy, do you have magic?” Angel asked.
Cassidy giggled, “I don’t have magic, but I do have a power called Magic Sight. I’m actually quite adept at it. I can see auras and discern from that, the strength and nature of others’ abilities.”
Jolien stood from her bed and walked over to wrap her arms around Cassidy from behind, leaning down to kiss her lips. “You can see me at my best. This is all the magic that matters.” She grinned softly, glancing back at the still-stunned girls.
“Did I break you?” she asked, a tinge of concern in her voice.
“THAT’S AMAZING!” the girls practically squealed, once the shock of Jolien’s portal had finally fully sunk in. “How did you do that?!” Angel added.
Cassidy pushed her laptop closed, reaching her hands up to rest them on Jolien’s. “You can go ahead and get your shower, babe. I’ll unbreak the girls.” She grinned brightly, showing off her purple braces again. Jolien laughed and kissed her one more time before reluctantly pulling away and heading into the bathroom.
Cassidy turned to the twins, “Jolien is a Chaos magic user, and she also has a second power that she hasn’t shown me yet. She can do some pretty amazing things with her first power however. As Jolien pointed out, you both glow with an incredibly strong magic aura, but I’m not sure what kind it is yet. It’s an aura I’ve never seen before..”
“This is really-”
“Confusing. Bethany said-”
“Magic isn’t real, even when-”
“Angel joked about it,” the pair rapid-fired Cassidy.
Cassidy nodded, “It’s what magic users tell others who aren’t ready or don’t have powers, that magic is not real. But I think that since Jonelle told you about her class, that you two will be training in your powers soon.”
“Our powers? You... You really see something?” Casey asked.
Cassidy nodded her head, “A very dark pink glow around you both. I’ve seen a similar glow before, but not this shade. Though it would explain the other person with a pinkish aura...” She trailed off thoughtfully and smiled. “Besides, if Jolien and Lacy saw you using magic, that just confirms what I’m seeing right now.”
“We’re pink!” the pair announced with a hyper giggle.
“Oh, that totally reminds me, I snuck a bottle of pink hair dye when you weren’t looking!” Angel added as if the whole ‘by the way you’re magic’ discussion hadn’t just happened seconds before.
Cassidy giggled, “Well I need to take a shower and get ready to go down to the commons to get dinner. You girls should join us.”
Angel grinned, “Only after I dye Casey’s hair with a pink streak like mine!”
“We’ll see you later!” Casey announced cheerfully. “Oh, hey, before we go one last question! Does everyone in Pink House know about this magicky stuff, or just the four of us?”
Cassidy shook her head, “No. The users in Pink house are you, Angel, Jolien, Lacy, and a girl named Dove upon the fourth floor. There are users in each of the other houses as well, however.”
“Cool!” the pair announced and turned to race through the door to their bedroom, courtesy of Jolien’s magic. Once safely on the other side of the portal, it closed, leaving their closed door behind them.
Angel and Casey looked at each other and at the same time they both announced to each other, “That was frickin weird and cool!”
At that exact moment their phones chimed for a text message. They both jumped slightly, whipping out their phones to see what the received message was.
The text message read, ‘School announcements - Cheerleader tryouts next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday new basketball team and football team tryouts. - Signed Head mistress Bethany and Vice Principal Alexa.’
“Bo-ring!” they announced in unison and giggled as a second text message rang through to their phones which read, ‘Tomorrow, magical arts orientation begins. ALL magically inclined students that live on campus must attend. This means you, girls ;-) - Signed Head mistress Bethany and Vice Principal Alexa.’
“Wow... So this is for real,” Angel giggled. “I mean... Cassidy and Jolien and Jonelle and Bailey aren’t just screwing with us.” She paused thoughtfully. “Then again that was a hell of a neat trick with the door.”
Casey gasped, causing Angel to stare at her. “What?”
“You said hell!”
Angel giggled. “You just said it too. And look, no alarms, no screaming parents. I love this place.”
“Did you notice Bailey and Jonelle didn’t even notice our belly button rings too?”
“I’m sure they did, but they aren’t our parents yet so they can’t say squat!” Angel giggled, “Right now Stephanie is our parent, and she said we could do almost anything we wanted. Besides if they disapprove then they wouldn't be cool parents and I don’t want parents that are not cool.”
Casey nodded, replying in her best Valley Girl voice. “Like, I don’t want uncool parents either! Our real parents were total bitches, or something!”
Angel giggled loudly. “Like, totally fer shure!” she shot back as she took the bottle of pink dye from one of her shopping bags, still sitting in a neat row by her closet, and went into Casey’s bathroom, “Let’s get you that streak you wanted. I don’t know about you but I’m totally hungry.”
Casey followed Angel and ten minutes later, emerged with her new pink streak, making it even more difficult to tell the two girls apart. She giggled happily, turning around to hug her sister.
“I love you Angel! You’re the best!”
“Love you too Casey, always and forever.” Angel giggled.
“So what are we wearing for dinner?” Casey asked. “I think we should wear our cute new shoes, but I don’t know what to pair with them.”
“This!” Angel bubbled as she emerged from ehr closet and held up a light pink plaid skirt and a white blouse.
“Oh, that’s cute! You’re so much better at this than me,” she added then turned and disappeared into her closet, emerging with the same outfit a few seconds later.
“Hey don’t down yourself. You have good taste too. I mean, you picked these shoes!” Angel grinned as she changed.
“Yeah. I can’t believe I found another pair in Danielle’s size! God she was so happy,” Casey bubbled as she started to change too. “Hmm. Now what socks... I was thinking the white ones with the cute lace, but that might be too girly. But they’d look so cute with these shoes.”
“Magic, remember?” Angel answered. “But if magic means we get to make cool people like Danielle happy, I’m all for it!”
After the girls finished getting dressed, they stepped out of their room just as Jolien and Cassidy emerged, holding hands. Jolien had on a sleeveless black dress that fit very tightly, with the mid-calf high boots she bought earlier, and Cassidy wore a purple scoop-neck dress that matched her glasses, with a pair of flats that, except for missing the bow, looked a lot like the shoes the girls were wearing.
Casey giggled. “Nice shoes,” she added cheerfully. Cassidy stuck out her tongue and laughed.
“I can’t wear heels. I topple over every time.”
“So she says, but I plan to teach her how to walk. I will teach you both as well, when you are just a little bit older!” she added with a playful wink.
Both girls giggled then Jolien asked, “So now you both look so alike how will we know which one is which?”
The girls looked at each other and giggled. “Guess!” they announced.
Jolien looked between the two for a moment then pointed to the one of the left, “Angel?”
“Casey,” Cassidy answered with a laugh.
Casey blinked a few times. “How’d you know?”
Cassidy giggled. “Magic sight, remember?” But then she paused, grinning broadly. “Actually, I can smell your hair dye from here. There’s complex science involving the way air currents work in these dorm halls, but I’ll just leave it at ‘hair dye’,” she finished with an innocent, half-nerdy grin.
“Well shoot. Try it again tomorrow!” both girls said in stereo.
“It’ll be interesting to see if I actually can use magic sight on you two... Most twins have a tell, but as far as either of us can tell you two don’t - not even in your auras. It’s remarkable.”
“You are more identical than most twins,” Jolien added with a nod as they started down the hallway together. “I suppose I could perhaps grow a wart on one of your noses?” she teased.
“You wouldn’t dare!” Both girls cringed.
Jolien held up her finger and then reached up to scratch her cheek, giggling. “No, I wouldn’t. Even if there weren’t restrictions on using magic against others.”
Angel and Casey both nodded, “Did you two get the notice about Monday?”
“Yep,” Cassidy answered, “But cheer’s not really our thing.”
Casey and Angel giggled and Casey started, “That is-”
Angel finished, “Next monday.”
Both girls blurted out, “We meant this Monday.”
“But now I can’t get the mental image of Jolien in a cheerleading uniform outta my head...” Cassidy pouted playfully, giggling as Jolien gave her shoulder a light swat.
“I am not athletic enough for those … tricks? Stunts? Whatever they are called. But yes, we received the notice about the magic studies - and yes, Headmistress was addressing you in her PostScript.”
“Oh good. So we’ve decided you two are not insane, nor is Jonelle and Bailey” both girls giggled.
Jolien and Cassidy shook their heads and Jolien spoke, “You know you two are insane right?”
Casey laughed, “Two staff members plus our dorm mates telling us Magic is real and then opening a... I-don’t-know-what to our room from their own room... That feels pretty crazy, yeah.”
“Completely mad,” Angel added. “Just needs a white rabbit with a pocket watch.”
Jolien giggled, “I can manage that next time. Do you want it to say ‘I’m late I’m late for a very important date’? because if you do that, um, ‘ow do you say costs extra?”
Angel cackled. “I wanted to be Alice for Halloween for the longest time, but Mom wouldn’t let Casey wear what she wanted, so it didn’t feel right.”
“We went as Peter Pan and Wendy a lot,” Casey added. “At least I got to wear tights.”
Cassidy and Jolien both giggled as they got in the elevator to go down, “Sounds fun.” Cassidy responded.
The twins followed, and Angel nodded. “Especially the day after when I made Casey parade around my room in my Wendy costume.”
“‘Made’, huh?” Cassidy teased, grinning at Casey. She giggled.
“Enthusiastically volunteered,” Casey answered. “Not sure what I’ll do this year. Maybe go as Sleeping Beauty or something. Blonde and pink.”
Jolien had been about to say something, when the elevator doors opened onto the lobby, and two new girls carrying a load of luggage each stood waiting. One of them had waist length sandy brown hair, wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt with a heart air-brushed at the center. She also has a guitar in a gig bag strapped to her back The other girl had strawberry blonde hair, wearing a pink skirt and a black midriff shirt showing off a dangling belly button ring.
“Hey, cool piercing!” the twins announced in unison as they stepped off, followed by Jolien and Cassidy.
“New residents? Bonjour, and welcome to Pink House!” Jolien announced with a sweeping gesture and a cheerful smile. “Do you need help with those?”
The strawberry blonde girl popped a bubble with her gum and smiled brightly. “Sure, but looks like you girls are all going on a date or something. We don’t want to keep you.”
Casey and Angel looked at each other and started laughing. “We’re not,” they announced in unison, and turned back to Jolien and Cassidy, adding, “You guys go ahead.”
Jolien and Cassidy both shook their heads, “Ok fine, but don’t scare the new girls, ok?” Cassidy replied, grinning.
“Who, us?” they asked in unison, giggling as they turned to the new arrivals.
“I’m Casey by the way,” Angel said with a cheesy grin.
“And I’m Angel,” Casey finished. They stopped, looked at each other, and giggled.
“Wait. Strike that. Reverse it,” Angel said.
“Bethany warned us about you two.” The sandy brown haired girl giggled.
“We’re not THAT bad,” Casey answered as she took some of the girl’s suitcases and bags.
“Usually,” Angel added.
“Oh, I’m Trisha,” the blonde-haired girl said as she handed over some of her luggage. “This is my girlfriend B- I mean Annie. We both just applied after researching GLBT-friendly schools online over the last year.”
Angel smiled, “Cool I’m transgendered.” giving Casey a wink, “So what floor are you on?”
The blonde haired girl looked at the two confused, “Neither one of you could be transgendered, or the both of you, because you both look like identical twins.”
“Near-identical,” Casey answered. “But only because Angel has her nails painted, and I haven’t had time to do mine yet.” She grinned innocently at the bad joke.
The two new girls shook their heads and laughed. Annie spoke, “So really, I bet you are both lesbians are something and pulling our legs about being transgendered right?”
The elevator stopped on the third floor and opened. “Well that answered my question.” Angel giggled.
Annie nodded. “Seems like it’s hard to get people to voluntarily take the upper floors for some reason.”
“Not me,” Trisha added, giggling. “I LOVE heights. Bungee jumping, skydiving... But Annie and me really just took the first available dorm room that would let us stay together. We didn’t tell them we’re dating, but I think they kinda knew anyway,” she giggled. Annie rolled her eyes.
Angel nodded, “Well if you share a wall with Casey and I, can you promise to keep the noise down?” she teased, giggling..
Annie and Trisha looked at each other and giggled, the former answering, “Only if you promise to do the same.” She grinned, earning a playful swat from Trisha.
“Be nice!” she laughed.
Angel and Casey both looked at each other “Eeeewww gross!”
Annie giggled. “I’m so sorry. I just couldn’t resist. But you don’t have to worry about us.”
“Except that Annie snores like an old sow,” Trisha added with a nod.
Annie swatted Trisha again, “Well atleast I dont talk and grind my teeth when I sleep.”
“I keep telling you if you let me chew on your neck I won’t grind my teeth,” she shot back playfully as they started down the hallway toward their room, one room down from Jolien and Cassidy’s.
“And Ms. Bethany warned you about us?” Casey giggled.
“Maybe she meant to warn us about you instead?” Angel added.
“So have you two been here long?” Trisha asked as she unlocked the door to their room with her student ID card.
Casey went to speak but instead they got stereo again, “No we just got here ourselves.”
“Oh cool, so we’re not the only new girls,” Annie chimed in cheerfully as she set some of her bags down on the bed, haphazardly tossing the duffel bag into the bathroom with a loud thud that echoed throughout the tiled room. She carefully set her guitar down on the bed and opened the case to reveal a brilliantly bright pink sparkling guitar. “We just got off the plane a couple of hours ago.”
Angel spoke without stereo this time, “Where did you two come in from?”
Annie stopped suddenly and glanced over at Trisha, who without missing a beat replied, “We’re from Omaha. Nice place, but we wanted to go to school somewhere guys wouldn’t constantly be catcalling us when we’re holding hands or something.”
Cassidy pulled Jolien aside, whispering “Something strange about those two.”
“Ooooh?” Jolien asked.
“The one with the tie-dyed shirt, has an identical magic aura to Ms. Anderson, IDENTICAL. I’ve never seen Ms. Anderson’s magic aura anywhere else. I mean down to the tee, dot the i’s, identical. She could be Ms. Anderson’s twin, like the girls, except that they’re drastically different in ages. The other one has a similar aura too.”
“Hmm.. We have to watch those two,” Jolien said thoughtfully.
Cassidy added, “Until I met Angel and Casey today, I’d never seen anyone with identical auras. Everyone has something different about their aura, so this has me confused... I can understand Angel and Casey; they’re twins. If you can’t tell them apart externally, why would you be able to tell them apart magically?”
“That is where your powers are so handy Cassidy. I really think that we should be watching them,” Jolien answered as they entered the food court area of Pink House to get some food..
“I agree. There’s something screwy going on here. Let’s not mention this to anyone just yet though. It could be a cosmic coincidence.”
“I feel compelled to make a joke about coincidence and The Force,” Jolien teased, “Were you serious about Angel and Casey’s colors being pink?”
Cassidy nodded her head, “First time I’ve seen that shade of pink. I’m going to ask Jonelle on Monday if she knows what the color represents in magic.”
“What ever it is it is very powerful. I mean they made an whole restaurant appear without them knowing they did it. I wonder if it is rare? Because I thought you knew all aura colors. I mean, you can even tell a difference between Spirit and Storm which I believe are very similar? Or... is that Spirit and Chaos? I forget... I barely can wield Chaos.” She giggled.
“Spirit magic and weather magic are very close in color.”
Jolien giggled. “The thing I have trouble with is defining what too much use is. Like that trick with the portal for the girls earlier. Every time I use my magic, I fear that I will be visited by some Universal police unit or persona or somesuch telling me I am gone too far, oui? Perhaps I am just being silly.” And with that she reached out to pluck a single thornless red rose from behind Cassidy’s ear, offering it to her as they sat down at their table..
Suddenly Lacy spoke in a very gruff voice as she put a firm hand on Jolien’s shoulder. “I saw that, young lady.”
Jolien squealed, throwing her hands up, which caused both Lacy and Cassidy to crack up laughing. Jolien, blushing, turned around to swat Lacy’s arm. “Vache! That was evil!”
Lacy giggled. “Who are you calling a cow?” she shot back playfully, still laughing. “But it was sooo funny,” she answered as she wandered off to find something to eat, herself.
“By the way, would you be able to tell an Persona if you saw one, Cassidy?” Jolien asked.
“No because no one has admitted to be an Persona!” Cassidy said, and then stuck her tongue out at Jolien.
Casey came down stairs moments later, and approached Jolien and Cassidy’s table. Cassidy stared, a little uncertain, as the girl approached, but quickly smiled as Casey spoke.
“There’s something fishy going on with those two.”
“We were just talking about that before Lacy almost made Jolien pee herself,” Cassidy giggled.
Jolien glared at Lacy at the food line then turned back to Cassidy, “We were thinking about bringing these two into our coven at least unofficially. I think its ok to tell them what we talked about.”
“That soon?” Cassidy asked, glancing at Casey. “But I suppose it’s wise.”
Jolien nodded, “They are more powerful already then I am, oui, And besides Bethany suggested it.”
Cassidy’s eyebrows arched delicately at that, but she nodded. “Okay, this concerns Bethany anyway, so I’ll go ahead and let you in on this. Once Angel and Lacy get here I’ll tell you all what’s going on, okay?”
Casey nodded. “Sure thing. I need to go get our drinks while she’s getting our food. You’re sure you don’t mind us sitting with you?”
Jolien and Cassidy looked at each other, then laughed. “Of course we do not mind!” Jolien replied. “This is not a real date. We dress like this to throw off suspicion as we plan for tonight. Now, go, get drinks. We will wait for you here. And... Could you get me a lemonade too? I will pay you back.”
“Consider it a gift,” Casey answered with a cheerful grin as she turned to walk away. Jolien then turned back to Cassidy. “Now... What was that look about? I know you Cassidy. You have no … ‘ow you say, poker face?”
Cassidy frowned slightly. “It’s the weirdest thing. Casey... She had no aura.”
“That is no possible!” Jolien whispered. “Every user has an aura. Only the truly most powerful can hide or mask it.”
“I know, but I’m telling you. Casey was completely auraless, like a normal human.”
“This is strange... Oh, here they come. Shh!”
“So what’d you want to tell us?” Casey asked as she, Angel, and Lacy all returned at once.
“First of all, you two don’t have a tell, right? You’re... basically almost, if not completely identical?” Cassidy began.
Angel and Casey nodded their heads once. “As far as we can tell,” they answered in unison.
“Even your auras are identical. But you’re not the only ones with identical auras. That girl in the tie-dyed t-shirt-”
“Annie,” Casey added.
“Annie... Her aura is the same as Bethany’s. I don’t mean similar, either. It’s completely one hundred percent unquestioningly the same. The other girl’s is similar too, but not identical. Auras are like a fingerprint. No two people should be able to share the same aura, even if they’re related. You two I can accept being the exception, but this girl...”
“Do you think Bethany’s a shapeshifter?” Angel asked thoughtfully. Cassidy shook her head.
“No. I’ve met shapeshifters as part of my aura sense training. Bethany’s, as well as this girl’s, are a bright fuchsia, with very specific … um... heart-shaped ‘indentations’. They’re very tiny. Most Sight users would probably overlook it.”
The two new girls came out of the elevator at that moment and waved to the twins and their friends, as they went to the food court and sat a table a bit away from the group. Annie looked over to her Trisha and grinned, “New set of meddling old women, hey?” she giggled.
Trisha laughed. “You have to give them credit for their initiative though. The girl - Cassidy - already knows there’s something wrong with your aura.”
“You weren’t peeking in her head were you?” Annie asked playfully. Trisha shook her head.
“Of course not! She just needs to learn to whisper a little more quietly,” she answered, but giggled. “Okay, maybe I cruised her surface thoughts... But it’s the same thing!”
Annie giggled. “I wasn’t chastising you. Why do you think I made the meddling ladies crack? In fact the old broads could learn from those girls. They have twins legitimately in their coven rather than trying to force it.”
Alexa giggled, “You were telling me about that before, but wasn’t it just one of the old ladies that was trying to force them into joining, not the whole coven?”
Bethany nodded grimly. “Yeah. Apparently she’s been stripped of her powers, but I don’t know if that means she’s still being punished, or what they did with her.” She frowned. “Kris has been too busy dealing with the mountain of souls he’s been abandoning so I can’t really ask him.”
Trisha giggled as she took Annie’s hand. She brought it up, pressing her lips against the palm. “Thank you for coming with me. Really, for showing me my true self too. I’ve never felt so happy in my life.”
“You know that really wasn’t my intention. Unlike Mom I don’t have foresight except in matters of the heart. You totally came outta left field.”
“Admit it. You were fantasizing about me weren’t you?”
Annie blushed brightly. “That would have been highly inappropriate.”
“I’m not hearing a no,” Trisha teased. Annie sighed.
“Okay, yes, I was fantasizing about you just a little, but your punishment had nothing to do with what I wanted to do with you in the bedroom. … You really did look cute though.”
Trisha laughed as she squeezed Annie’s hand. “Even if it wasn’t your intention, you showed me something... What’s going to happen to Mick and those other losers anyway? Just because I don’t hate them doesn’t mean they don’t need to be taken over someone’s knee with a two-by-four.”
Annie laughed softly as she chewed on a french fry, the mood ring on her finger turning a bright violet. “You know how magic works right? How mortals without magic can’t see what we’re really doing? Well, a mortal was watching what transpired. They saw you get the crap kicked out of you, and assumed that Faith’s brother was just a bystander coming to rescue you. They filed charges with the local police department, and there’s very soon going to be an investigation.”
“Oh, I see. And the nice man who rescued me has asked to adopt me and take me away from those horrible meanies, right?” Trisha grinned wide as Annie nodded.
The girls at the other table had been quietly discussing their plans for the evening, to induct Casey and Angel into their coven. The girls wanted to redo their nail polish first, so finishing their meal, headed back up to their room. As soon as they were out of earshot, Lacy leaned closer and whispered, “I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the new girls have been staring at us this entire time.”
“I’m telling you,” Cassidy answered, “They’re up to something. Let’s head back to our rooms for now and see if they follow us tonight. We’ll meet at the usual place. The ley lines are shifting, but I believe we still have time to induct the newcomers before the moon’s pull shifts them too far.”
Late that night, a knock came at the girls’ door. They were both wearing their bathrobes, in case it was Stephanie or another adult, with their street clothes underneath. Waiting on the other side however, were three figures dressed in dark red, bulky hooded robes. They lurched forward and grabbed the twins before they could scream, and covered their mouths.
The figures then vanished, reappearing in a forested area by a small, babbling brook. A large boulder nearby sat laden with candles, and a circle containing ornate arcane symbols had been drawn on the ground in some sort of white substance. The robed figures released the girls, and the apparent ringleader pulled back the hood to reveal Cassidy underneath.
“Jesus! You scared us half to death!” Casey whined.
Jolien and Lacy threw off their hoods next and Jolien giggled. “I’m sorry, but it’s a tradition that no one outside the coven can see the way to reach this place. But we will be fixing that tonight, oui?”
A fourth figure, dressed not in the robes of the other girls, but in plain street clothes - a pair of jeans, a black t-shirt, and jet black hair approached. In the fiery light of the others’ torches and candles, the twins could clearly see her face. She was with Annabell at the mall earlier that day.
“Hi gals,” Nikki called cheerfully. “Glad you could make it.”
Jolien grinned. “Hello ‘boss’.”
Nikki waved dismissively. “Seriously, you guys can stop calling me that any time now,” she shot back, turning an appraising eye on the twins. “Cassidy?” she asked, outstretching her hand without even looking over at her. Cassidy rushed to her side and took Nikki’s hand, interlocking her fingers. Jolien stood on the other side, taking Cassidy’s other hand in the same manner.
“What are they doing?” Angel whispered.
“Heck if I know,” Lacy answered.
“Jolien and I are both Chaos users,” Nikki answered. “You’ll learn more about that in your magical arts studies soon enough, but basically... Cassidy is letting us see what she sees. It’s a complex thing, mimicking Magic Sight, so I need both their help. Don’t worry - this won’t hurt … Well, it won’t hurt you anyway. I’m gonna have a splitting headache tomorrow.”
“There’s also great power here,” Lacy added, glancing over at Nikki as she continued to focus. “Are you okay?” Nikki squinted, and then she nodded slowly.
“I’m okay. You were right to bring these two to our attention.” She let go of the girls’ hands on either side of her and staggered backwards, resting against the large boulder. Angel and Casey both raced to her side, asking in unison,
“Are you okay?!”
Nikki grinned, sitting upright as though nothing had happened.. “I’m fine. Just a little test. By the way, you passed. I didn’t really cast a spell or anything. I just wanted to see how you’d react if you thought I had hurt myself trying to see what Cassidy sees in your auras.”
“You tricked us?” the girls asked. “But why?” Angel added.
“I needed to see if I could trust you. We didn’t bring you out here tonight to initiate you into some secret society or anything. We just wanted to have a little fun while we asked if you’d like to join us. It’s not unheard of for magic users to go it alone, and we’re not asking you to ignore what you’ll learn from your proper instructors. We’re more like … a magical arts study group. Officially the Coven cannot have more than four members, but we still want to help you to harness your power. We won’t ask anything in return - just that you let us help you.”
“Nikki’s our leader,” Cassidy added, “And quite possibly the second most powerful chaos user I’ve ever met.”
“Who’s the first?” Angel blurted without even thinking. Nikki laughed, grinning.
“My mentor - Grandma Lily. This spot is her coven’s meeting place. It has been for hundreds of years now, but even a magic user doesn’t live forever, and so we’ve been slowly taking over the more mundane duties the elder coven once handled, in lieu of their losing Eva.”
Both girls blurted out, “Mundane duties - what kind?”
“Like getting pizza for them?” Casey asked
Nikki, Cassidy, Lacy, and Jolien all looked at each other a little bit stunned by the question. They all started laughing, as Nikki waved her hand, motioning to the chalk glyph on the ground. “Not quite THAT mundane. Besides, Grandma hates pizza. She’s convinced it’s still the same recipe that came out of Italy a few centuries ago.” She paused to wink, letting that comment sink in.
“No, what we’re going to be doing tonight is maintenance of the ley lines. And as a gift to the two of you, we’d like you to stay and watch, whether or not you decide you want to join us. Wait here. This is gonna be a helluva light show,” she added with a playful wink.
“Girls?” Nikki asked as she stepped forward, and suddenly was clad in a dark red robe. It wasn’t as though it appeared out of thin air, or that she donned it as she approached the circle. It simply was there, as though it had always been there.
The four girls took their places, and something occurred to Angel. “North,” she whispered. Casey nodded.
“And South, East and West. I noticed that too,” she whispered back.
Nikki glanced at the twins at that and winked as she took Cassidy and Lacy’s hands, with Jolien directly across from her at the South point in the circle..
“Through dark of night,” Lacy began.
“By Magic’s Sight,” Cassidy answered.
As the chant continued around the circle, a brisk wind picked up, blowing out the torches and candles, but in doing so, the twins could now see that the runes under the others’ feet were glowing brightly enough to illuminate the area. The light began as a bright white, but it slowly faded until it was the color of the full moon in the night sky.
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning, striking from out of nowhere, landed dead-center of the runes, causing Angel and Casey to squeal and leap into each others’ arms. The four elder witches didn’t even flinch.
The light from the runes almost seemed to shoot straight into the sky, as though it were tangible matter. It faded slowly, taking the runes with it, and as the torches and candles reignited themselves, Nikki concluded, “It’s done.” She turned to approach the twins again.
“What was that?!” they gasped in unison. Nikki grinned.
“Remember I told you that we do the mundane work for the elder coven? What you just witnessed was … a bit like winterizing your home or bracing a loose floorboard. We recemented the ley lines here. Can you feel it?”
“I feel something,” Casey answered first. Angel nodded.
“Alpine Springs is a nexus point. It’s the point in the universe where all magic began. That’s why users are drawn to this place at least once in their lives. All that foot traffic tends to wreak havoc on the ley lines though, so sometimes someone has to tack ‘em down. It’s just the natural order of the universe - ironically, that everything succumbs to chaos.”
“That is why Chaos magic is so powerful,” Jolien added. “Chaos is the closest thing to the Universe itself.”
Nikki glanced at Jolien and shook her head. “Not quite. That WAS true up until recently, though.”
Jolien blinked, genuinely surprised. “What are you saying then?”
Nikki smiled as she motioned to the girls. “Twin magic hasn’t been seen since the dawn of magic. The Universe worried that it was too powerful. Grandma doesn’t know exactly why she’s allowed it to return, but you’re looking at one of the only two sets of twin magic users in existence.”
Cassidy gasped. “Oh my God! That’s why their Auras looked the same!”
Nikki nodded with a grin as she rested her hands on Angel and Casey’s shoulders. Her hands felt strangely warm to the touch, but not uncomfortably so. It was almost a pleasant, tingly sensation.. “Exactly. I didn’t even know twin magic existed until recently myself.”
“Wait a minute though,” Cassidy frowned. “What about people who share auras who AREN’T twins?”
Nikki blinked at the question. “That... shouldn’t be possible outside of shapeshifters.”
“Yes, but shapeshifters don’t have bright fuchsia auras,” Casey answered. Nikki stared thoughtfully for a moment or two. She chuckled to herself.
Cassidy’s frown darkened slightly. “What?”
Nikki shook her head. “It’s nothing. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
“You’re not telling me something Nikki Morgan,” Cassidy pouted cutely.
Nikki started to say something, but something odd in the distance caught her attention.
A pink inflatable ball came bouncing into the clearing and splashed into the water. In the wind a young girl’s giggle echoed.
“What the...” Lacy began.
“Everyone stay back,” Nikki commanded, in an uncharacteristically firm tone. “Protect the twins,” she commanded as she stepped forward. The other three formed a circle around the girls with Nikki in front of them. Her hands glowed a deep, dark red that caused the twins to back away from her slightly, bumping into Cassidy.
“Oh no need to be scared Nikki.” a young girl’s voice came again through the wind, “I’ve only come to play.”
“... That voice...” Nikki answered softly, as if she couldn’t believe her own ears. “Faith?”
The giggling continued. “Nikki, Lacy, Cassidy, Angel, Casey and Jolien... My Daughters, stand proud and I will show myself.” the voice now sounded more commanding but not demanding.
Nikki grinned as she motioned for the others to come to her side. The twins tried to hide behind Jolien, but a gentle magical ‘nudge’ against their backs forced them front and center. Nikki placed her hands on their shoulders again and grinned. “To what do we owe this visit, O Pink one? And why hadn’t you revealed yourself to me sooner?”
Faith walked out from the trees and grinned. “That was not for you to know at the time my daughter.” Her voice changed to a more mature loving voice, “But I have news now for your Coven.”
Nikki nodded. “What message does the Universe bring that my lowly-” she paused and scowled. “Y’know what, I’m sorry, but I can’t keep this fancy thee’s and thou’s up. I don’t CARE if it’s tradition, I can’t TALK like that and keep a straight face any more!” She grinned softly at Faith as she stepped closer to hug her. “What can we do for you? I mean, Grandma’s coven will be here later tonight if you’d rather work with them.”
Faith nearly fell on her butt giggling, returning Nikki’s hug happily. “I love it!” she squealed happily. “I wish your grandmother would talk like that to me. I hate all that formal nonsense. Anyway, Nikki your grandmother is on her last cycle, dear. She’s getting old, and her coven won’t be here much longer. Micia will remain to help you even after they have gone, but when their time has passed, it will be you who leads.
“I have decided to get more involved with things here on earth, so here I am.”
Nikki nodded. “I was afraid of that.” She paused, blushing just a little. “I mean, about my Grandma, not about you getting involved.”
Lacy couldn’t hold in her laughter at Nikki’s comment, causing Jolien and Cassidy to start laughing as well. “I’m sorry. No disrespect, but the way that came out was too funny.”
Faith laughed as she nodded. “It was quite funny,” she added, glancing back at Nikki with a grin. “When your grandmother’s coven goes, it will be your job to replace the barrier and keep it up.”
“But...” Nikki frowned. “The original barrier required a sacrifice, didn’t it?”
“That’s the story that I’d heard,” Cassidy added. “Micia Jewel gave her life the second time, and the Elder of the Coven before Eva Crowley sacrificed herself to create the first barrier.”
Faith nodded. “That’s the only way they could figure it out Nikki. There are other ways to do it though. Each of you will play a role in seeking that answer.” She turned to approach Cassidy, stretching out her hand to take it. “My child, you still doubt yourself.”
“What?” she asked, stunned. She knew what Faith meant, though.
Faith giggled. “Magic Sight is a new ability. It will be the secret to unlocking the mystery. Yours is the most important job in this coven, and when you discover it, you will discover, as well, your true potential.”
“But that kind of power...” She glanced down at the twins on either side of her, and then back at Faith.
“What?” the girls answered in unison, blinking at Nikki.
Nikki grinned. “Girls, I know what I said before about this being like a magic study session, but it seems fate has other plans. You know all those stories in the bible about God and all that?”
The girls nodded. “Sure. Mom and Dad were big on that stuff,” Casey answered with a frown.
“Well...” she motioned to Faith. “Meet God.”
Faith took a bow and grinned. “Pleasure to meet you Angel”, pointing right at Angel not needing to be introduced, “And you as well Casey” pointing at Casey, “But I am not just god, I am who I am as my brother says, and he is who he is.” She giggled.
“Right,” Nikki explained, as the twins stared slack-jawed. “Turns out the ancients didn’t quite get it right. Faith is the Universe personified. I knew her as my friend Sarah’s cousin, up until just tonight, but I knew she existed before that. She HATES it when people kowtow to her, so whatever you do, just treat her like you would me and you’ll be fine.”
“So cool!” the girls exclaimed.
“So now comes the million dollar question... Will you join our coven and help us to continue the legacy my Grandmother’s leaving us? Officially we can only have four members, but the barrier is all that stands between people like you, Casey, and a whole lot more hatred than what you’ve already endured. It... has a way of tempering people to tolerance not just for transgendered folk, but lesbian and gay like me, magic users, and the like. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. I would welcome your help in keeping it intact.”
Angel and Casey nodded their heads and in stereo answered, “Oh my God, sign us up right now!” both giggled then added, “That should be goddess huh?”
Nikki smiled as she turned around to face the girls, and the others joined hands around them. She turned to look over her shoulder at Faith, extending her hand. “Would you join us too?”
Faith grinned. “I told you I’m taking a more active role with your Coven. No more go betweens with me and my Guardians or my personas. It’s time you dealt with me instead.” She walked over and took Nikki’s hand in hers. Lacy took her other hand, completing the circle.
“As my Grandmother before me, as all Users before us, we welcome you, Casey and Angel, in the eyes of Almighty G-” she cut herself off and grinned, “Faith, and with her blessing. You don’t serve us. We serve each other - we serve to lift each other up, so that we can all become stronger together than any one of us alone. And I swear to Faith this is the last long-winded speech you’ll ever hear from me again.”
Faith giggled under her breath and nodded, “I mote it be. Coven of Alpine Springs you be strong, your powers grow and will continue to grow, your the first generation of users whose coven will grow, and solely with my blessing this shall be.”
The girls broke their circle, though it really more so morphed into one big group hug centered on the twins. A moment later Nikki turned to hug Faith. “I know it’s not necessary, with you being the Universe and all, but I’d still like to consider you a member of this circle. Since we’re breaking traditions anyway, might as well ask the big boss to join us.” She winked.
Faith bowed, “It’s an honor be part of this. I can’t promise I will always be here for you girls, but when it’s important I will.”
“Man, I wish Jenn could see this. She’d die,” Nikki giggled and hugged Faith.
Faith grinned wide, “Really?” she pulled a pink cell phone out of her skirt pocket and texted someone with the same wide grin on her face, then she flipped it closed.
From behind Nikki someone wrapped her in a tight hug then her voice gave her away, “Aloha Nikki.” she giggled.
“ACK!” Nikki literally squealed as she spun around. “Jenn?! What the hell?!” She threw her arms around her, nearly lifting her off her feet. “Where’d you come from? How’d you get here so fast?!”
“You’re not the only one who’s been keeping secrets,” Jenn answered in a sing song tone, giving Nikki’s chest a playful poke.
Faith giggled, “Jennifer has had many names. She is the oldest living human, and the original practitioner of the Guardian protocol. There are other guardians in the world, born of Entropy, but Jenn is the oldest and the most powerful.”
Nikki’s jaw dropped. “Um... Come again?”
Jenn nodded. “Y’know how you’re always teasing me about how zen I can be sometimes, like I’m older than I look? Weeeell, I was born 1600 years ago.”
“Oh my Gawd,” she whispered. “But why pretend to be my age? I mean, if you’re that old you surely should’ve moved beyond the need to ‘recycle’, right?”
Jenn glanced at Faith for a moment and smiled sadly. “Like I said, it’s a long story. Ever cycle I choose a host family and I am - I was - reborn. Faith, her brother and I had a … falling out. But things are as they should be now, and I can FINALLY tell you the truth! Because of that cycle of true rebirth, I AM your age. FYI though, you really are my best friend. I haven’t had friends like you, Allison, or Robin in centuries.”
Faith added casually, “The Guardians hold the keystone to the powers you wield. Without a guardian there would be no power of that kind. The only sets of magic that have no Guardians yet are twin magic and sight.”
“Or was immortal...” Jennifer continued.
Nikki questioned, “Was?”
“I asked at Camp Kutomanu, and Faith agreed, for this be my last cycle. I am so world-weary. Sixteen centuries wears on the soul.”
“Oh about that …” Faith started.
Jenn suddenly became downcast. “Don’t tell me you changed your mind?”
Faith giggled, "No, I didn't change my mind my daughter. You just need to pick and train your guardian replacement before your time is up, but it is not a rush. You have plenty of time."
"Can it be anyone with Spirit magic, even if they are accidental?" Jennifer asked.
"Yes, but if that person is who I think it is, her time has not come, and you are not to inform her of her power yet. That time will come before your time is up."
Cassidy slowly approached Jenn as the three of them talked. She didn’t interrupt them, or even make an attempt to, instead seeming almost transfixed, like a child meeting their rock star idol for the first time. She stared, captivated by what she apparently was seeing.
Jenn turned to face Cassidy and grinned. “Yes?”
“I’ve never seen such a powerful aura. I-it’s almost blinding.”
“Oh!” Jenn laughed. She almost seemed to be focusing for a moment, and then smiled at the awestruck girl. “Does that help?”
Cassidy laughed. “You didn’t have to tone it down. I’m just surprised. I’ve never even heard of anyone with such powerful ability. Even Lily Rose Morgan’s aura isn’t close to that magnitude.”
“It’s why the coven here once shunned me. Eva was jealous of my power, and it was made worse by my... Ahem... feud with Faith. She couldn’t understand why I wasn’t stripped of my power centuries ago. But before anyone starts digging into history books, let me just say that it was a cosmic-sized misunderstanding, and leave it at that.” She grinned at Faith.
“Oh!” Lacy exclaimed. “Hey, Cassidy ask her about the thing!”
“The thing?” Cassidy asked.
“The girl with the aura identical to Mademoiselle Anderson,” Jolien answered.
“OH! Faith, apart from Angel and Casey, I saw another person with an aura identical to someone else, but these two are so not twins. But they’re not shapeshifters either.”
Faith smiled, “Cosmic flook. There might be another set of people just like it somewhere else. It happens once in awhile.”
“... So it really is just a coincidence? Aww. I was hoping we were on to some big school mystery or something. Y’know, besides a coven of teenage witches working directly with the Universe to promote peace at the central ley lines to prevent the destruction of magic and possibly the Earth.”
“Right,” Nikki added, “So no setting up surveillance spells without authorization,” she winked twice, grinning.
Faith winked at Nikki. “I’ll pretend I didn’t just see that, young lady.” She sighed. “You’re going to be a handful just like your grandmother.”
Nikki giggled. “I’ll take that as a compliment. Gram in her true form still looks pretty young. Does that mean she still has a few years left?”
Faith nodded. “Yes. They all do. There’s enough time for them to train you and get you prepared for the role you are to undertake.”
“We should get the girls back before anyone misses them,” Nikki said, turning back to face the twins. “But if you’ll remind one of us, we’ll show you how to get here the mundane way. It’s quite a hike, so chaos gates are faster. Also my friends like to camp out here sometimes, so don’t freak out if you come here and find tents set up.”
“This is a popular spot huh?” Jenn teased. “All right. Faith, if you could send me back, I’ve got school tomorrow so I need to get some sleep.”
“We’ll get everyone else back safely,” Nikki added, and Faith gave a nod.
“Allow me,” she replied, stretching out her hand. Three swirls of energy came into existence before her: one leading directly to the Morgan Estate, one to Jennifer’s, and the third opened onto the third floor hallway of Pink House.
“Have an excellent first day of school, my daughters.” Faith smiled brightly, her pink irises shifting to a brilliant, beautiful blue as everyone entered their respective portals.
Back at Pink House, the twins shared a glance with their dorm mates. “That was weird,” Angel and Casey announced in unison. Jolien laughed.
“Welcome to Alpine Springs,” she answered, waving as the older girls parted ways.
Down the hall, the elevator doors opened, and for just a moment, Lacy thought she had caught a glimpse of two young girls inside, but when she turned to face them, found Trisha and Annie, the two new students from earlier smiling back at her. She gave the pair a quiet nod and stepped onto the elevator as they left.
“I won’t tell if you don’t,” Annie commented with a wink.
“Tell?” Lacy asked. Just before the doors closed, Trisha answered with a bubbly giggle.
“About us all being out after curfew!”
Lacy pressed her back against the wall of the elevator after pressing ‘2’ and sighed. “I’ve been studying waaay too hard...”
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