Glyph 3: Ink in her Veins part 2

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Tuesday late morning, Oct 4th, 2016

I was in BMA, practicing forms, which was my favorite part of the class. While practicing the movements, there was virtually no chance of my getting hurt and humiliated, not like when we sparred. However, I knew my luck wouldn’t last for long, and I was proven right.

“Glyph,” Sensei Tolman called me up to the sparring circle. “Crysis.”

I groaned when I heard Crysis’ name called. When we sparred without our powers, he had the Advantage of being larger and stronger than me, but it was even worse when we did use our powers. As a fairly high level telekinetic, he could usually throw me out of the ring, without touching me, before I had a chance to do anything at all. And of course, he was never gentle about it.

With a sigh, I took my place in the sparring circle. As Crysis took his place, he smirked at me, confident of an easy victory. That smugness burned me up inside, and I decided that even if I was going to get my butt kicked, I would at least make him work for it. Now, if I only felt a little more confident in my ability to do that.

My options were limited, which they always were in this class. I could use one of my built in spells, namely the ones that let me control air or fire, but Crysis would be expecting those. For various reasons, my other three elemental spells were either useless, or couldn’t be used in this setting. That meant I would have to rely mostly on my limited skills, or on a couple spell sheets.

“For this match,” Tolman announced, “Glyph, you will attempt to get Crysis into the capture cage before the five minute time limit, and Crysis, you will attempt to avoid being captured. The match ends at the end of five minutes, or if Crysis enters the cage.” She looked back and forth to each of us to make sure we understood. “Hajime.”

Crysis immediately went on the offensive and hit me with a telekinetic push that sent me flying back and outside the usual sparring area. A couple students dove to the side, and I just barely missed hitting them before I landed hard on some of the mats. If we’d been playing by the usual sparring rules, going out of bounds like this would have enough to end the match, with my instant loss. Fortunately, we weren’t playing by those rules today.

“Ouch,” I groaned as I scrambled back to my feet.

While muttering a couple choice profanities under my breath, I reached to my belt and the small pouch that contained a few sheets of folded paper. These were my spells that had been prepared ahead of time, mostly for emergency use. I figured that this was close enough.

I cautiously approached Crysis, wondering how I could possibly beat him when his telekinesis could keep pushing me away, before I could really get close. In fact, he could use his power to pick me up and throw me into the capture cage, just as easily as he’d knocked me across the room. I really hoped he didn’t do that, because that would simply be humiliating.

When I was close enough, or at least, sure that Crysis wouldn’t let me get any closer, I pushed essence into one sheet of paper, which glowed brightly for several seconds. I hoped that this provided enough distraction, because I charged forward, dropping the other sheet of paper and punched Crysis. I actually connected to his jaw, though I was immediately thrown back again. Crysis didn’t even have the courtesy to yelp in pain.

“You’re going to have to do better than that,” Crysis stated with a cold sneer. “I don’t know how you ever beat the Messenger.”

My heart nearly jumped up into my chest at the mention of the Messenger. The Messenger had been a professional hit man, and was the person who’d murdered my entire family, right in front of me. He’d come after me too, and almost out of pure luck, I’d managed to kill him. The very thought of that man was enough to shake me, and for good reason. He occupied a central place in many of my nightmares.

Ever since I’d been outed at Whateley as the White Lady, there had been a lot of rumors around the school about me, but as far as I knew, none of those rumors had included mention of the Messenger. However, this was the SECOND time that Crysis had mentioned him, and I suddenly wanted to know why.

“What do you know about the Messenger?” I demanded.

Instead of answering me, Crysis grabbed me with his telekinesis and lifted me up into the air. From his dark and malevolent expression, I feared that he would use that opportunity to kill me, or at least do some serious damage. With the current situation, it would be extremely easy to either crush me or fling me against some surface, and then claim it was some kind of training accident.

I flipped the mental switch to activate one of my built-in spells, and suddenly, my eyes and tattoos all began to glow a reddish-orange. That was a very clear indication of what I was about to do, so before Crysis could react, I sent a ball of fire flying straight at him. Crysis yelped and jumped aside, just barely managing to avoid being singed. And as a nice bonus, he lost his concentration and his grip on me, letting me drop back down to the floor.

“You can’t keep that up for very long,” Crysis stated, giving me an angry glare.

He’d seen me use this power in class on a number of occasions, as had everyone else, so they all knew that I could only hold out with this power for thirty seconds at the very most. Crysis was right, in that I couldn’t keep this up for long. That meant, I had to make use of this power while I had it.

I sent another blast of fire towards Crysis, trying to herd him to where I wanted him to be. Crysis was a powerful telekinetic, and could probably use his powers to throw a car at me. However, he didn’t have the kind of control that might let him do things like create a PK shell, which meant, he couldn’t use his powers for defense, at least not directly. He jumped to the side, as I expected, but before I could do much more, my power ran out.

“I’ve got you now,” Crysis stated with a furious look in his eyes.

I couldn’t bluff him with the threat of another fire blast, because my eyes and tattoos had stopped glowing when that power faded. Of course, I still had other tricks up my sleeve. I just hoped that I had the opportunity to use them.

Crysis grabbed me with his telekinesis again and sent me floating up into the air. It felt like a giant invisible hand was holding me tight and squeezing, making it difficult to breath. From the look on my opponent’s face, I was pretty sure that this time, he would take advantage of the opportunity to cause me a little extra pain.

“I don’t see why everyone in Chicago thinks you’re such a big deal,” Crysis announced, taking a couple steps towards me so he could gloat better. “You’re nothing…”

But then, Crysis stepped onto the sheet of paper that I’d dropped onto the floor at the beginning of the match, and suddenly, it exploded into a ball of flame. Crysis yelled like a little girl as his foot and pant leg caught on fire for a moment, and he was distracted enough to drop me…again.

This time, I flipped the mental switch while I was still in the air, so by the time I hit the ground, my eyes and tattoos were all glowing a silvery color. I didn’t hesitate before jumping to the side, just so I could position myself better, and then I unleashed a powerful gust of wind. The wind hit Crysis and threw him back, right into the capture cage.

“Glyph wins the match,” Tolman called out.

I remained where I was for several seconds, letting my power fade away. I’d won. I almost never won in this class, especially not against someone as powerful as Crysis. Of course, I’d only done so because I set my trap early in the match, and then waited for an opportunity to have Crysis activate it. Unfortunately, that trick probably wouldn’t work again, but for now, I’d won.

Crysis stepped out of the capture cage, limping from his burned foot and looking pissed. For a moment, I thought he was going to attack me again, even though the match was over. However, after glancing at Tolman, he took a deep breath and restrained himself.

“Good match, Bia,” Morgana called to me from halfway across the room. I grimaced at that. I hated when people shortened my name to Bia.

“Congratulations,” Laura told me with a smile.

“Thanks,” I said, giving a self-conscious smile back.

Class ended just a few minutes after this, much to my relief. After that fight with Crysis, I was tired, sore, and more than ready for lunch. Still, in spite of that, I was in a good mood, after earning a hard-won victory in class.

But just as I was going to the locker rooms to clean up and change, Crysis walked past me on the way to the boy’s locker room, and sneered, “You won’t get that lucky when Scorn comes for you.”

I froze at that, my eye going wide in shock as my heart felt like it was jumping into my throat. “What…?” However, Crysis quickly continued to the locker room, leaving me standing there in stunned disbelief.

“Hey, Bianca, what’s wrong?” Morgana asked as she came up to me.

“Scorn,” I whispered. The name tasted foul in my mouth.

Though I’d never met Scorn, and didn’t even know what he looked like, I’d certainly heard of him. After all, Scorn was the man who’d hired the Messenger to kill my family, and who’d sent other people to kill me afterwards. I didn’t know Scorn, but I feared and hated him more than just about anyone, with the possible exception of the Messenger.

“What are you talking about?” Morgana asked, giving me a worried look.

I just gulped. Crysis had known about the Messenger, and now he’d mentioned Scorn coming for me. Somehow, Crysis knew more than what should have been available on the campus grapevine, and he seemed to have a personal grudge against me for some reason. That alone would have been enough to make me worry, but with the threat of Scorn as well…

“He said Scorn is coming for me,” I whispered. My voice shook a little.

Ever since I’d been outed as the White Lady, I’d known this moment would come. I’d known that sooner or later, Scorn would find me, and then, he’d send someone to finish the job.

Laura came over and gently asked, “Are you okay?”

Morgana looked at Laura. “She said Scorn is coming for her…”

“Isn’t he the guy who…?” Laura started with a look of wide-eyed concern. I could only nod.

“That jerk is probably just trying to shake you,” Morgana told me. “I mean, you just beat him, so he’s trying to get back however he can…”

“Maybe,” I responded, without much conviction.

“Even if this Scorn guy does know where you are,” Morgana assured me, “there’s no way he’ll be able to get to you here at Whateley.”

“He’d be an idiot to even try,” Laura agreed with a smile. “I’ve heard that even the Syndicate will go after anyone who messes with the school.”

I nodded at that, relaxing a little. “Maybe,” I repeated, feeling a little less concerned, though my fears didn’t go away entirely. In fact, as long as Scorn was out there, and had a price on my head, I doubted that I’d ever feel completely safe. “I knew he’d find out about me being here eventually, but having Crysis threatening me with him that way… It…”

“It hit close to home,” Morgana said in understanding. After I nodded agreement, she put her arm around my shoulder. “Well, let’s go get cleaned up so we can get lunch. I bet one of those greasy cheeseburgers that you yanks like, will make you feel better.”

With a laugh, I pointed out, “Actually, pizza is more my comfort food, but a good burger is still appreciated too.”

Then, after giving a cold glare in the direction I’d last seen Crysis, I turned and started into the locker room with my friends. Maybe they were right. Maybe there was no more reason to worry today than there had been yesterday. And maybe Bacon would learn to fly.

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The Quad, Tuesday late morning, Oct 4th, 2016

It was in the middle of the lunch period, so Beatdown and Shades were sitting at their usual place in the Quad. From their table, they could not only watch all the other students walk past, but also pick the ones who looked like good entertainment.

Clive glanced to Shades and let out a sigh. He was still disappointed at having missed out on such a great opportunity the day before. He’d had a chance to get in good with the Family, an established and well respected organization, and he’d blown it. From what he heard, the Family treated their muscle pretty good, so this was a missed opportunity that he truly regretted.

Just then, Clive was distracted from these thoughts by the sight of a girl who was literally skipping right past them. Twitch was one of those junior high kids, with blonde hair that was pulled back in pigtails, and she was even wearing a purple witch hat. Clive smirked faintly, knowing that this was the kind of kid that Shades normally liked to mess with, but that his buddy would pretend that he hadn’t seen her.

“Hey,” Clive said, gently elbowing Shades and indicating Twitch.

He saw Shades stiffen a little before asking, “What?”

“Nothin,” Clive responded, smug in that he’d predicted Shades’ reaction.

The one time Shades had messed with Twitch, he’d received a visit from four of the Bad Seeds, just a few hours later. And while Clive didn’t know exactly what the Seeds said to Shades, he knew that his friend had carefully avoided the girl since.

“Hey,” Shades exclaimed, abruptly elbowing Clive in the side. “You hear that?”

It took a couple seconds for Clive to realize that Shades was referring to. Two boys were sitting at the next table over, and they were talking about Glyph, or at least, about some of the rumors they’d heard. From what Clive could make out, they weren’t saying anything good about the girl.

“I think we need to do something about that,” Shades said with a thoughtful look. “If we’re gonna be working for Glyph, we can’t let these guys talk trash about her…”

“But we don’t work for her,” Clive reminded him with a scowl of annoyance. “You heard her. She said she didn’t want us…”

“You don’t get it,” Shades responded with a smirk. “She was just saying that for plausible deniability. You saw, she already has a bunch of kids working for her, so she’s obviously recruiting. We’ll just have to prove ourselves if we want to get in solid.”

Clive considered that for a moment before nodding his agreement. Then, without another word, he stood up and walked towards the next table, while Shades came up beside him.

“I heard you talking smack about our boss,” Clive announced while making a show of cracking his knuckles. The two boys looked up at him with expressions of surprise and fear, while he just grinned. “Now I’m gonna have to teach you two a lesson…”

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Tuesday late afternoon, Oct 4th, 2016

The members of the Intelligence Cadet Corps sat around a table in their headquarters, staring at some photos of Glyph. Many of the photos were extremely blurry, as they’d been taken during times when the target of their investigation had been taking anti-surveillance measures. However, some of them were crisp and clear.

“Look at her,” Flipside commented as he tapped one of the photos. “Chalk white skin and hair, and those eerie silvery eyes. Creepy.”

“Glyph does bear a startling resemblance to some creature out of a horror movie,” Miss Violet commented with a faint smirk. “Perhaps a vampire or ghost of some sort…”

“We don’t judge a suspect’s guilt or innocence off how they look,” Perfume pointed out. “We need evidence.”

“The evidence has been building,” Mr. Blank said with a smug look. “We know that she’s been recruiting minions and henchmen, and today during lunch, two of her thugs roughed up a couple other students.”

Miss Violet nodded agreement. “Indeed. Beatdown and Shades even admitted that they were doing this for Glyph. She’s getting more brazen, having her people silence those who speak out against her.”

“And she broke one of my drones,” Cyber Swarm complained. He held out the wreckage of a robotic dragonfly. “She hit it with a book…”

“To be honest,” Flipside admitted with a shrug. “If I saw a metal dragonfly buzzing around me, I’d swat the damn thing too…”

Perfume fixed Cyber Swarm with a flat look. “If you didn’t keep making your drones look like insects, then people wouldn’t keep smashing them.”

“Those spider ones are really creepy,” Mouse offered quietly while Miss Violet nodded agreement.

Cyber Swarm scowled, though it came out more as a pout. “But insects and arachnids are incredible. Do you know how many species there are on Earth, and how many still haven’t even been discovered? They are the perfect models for my micro-drones…”

“Does anyone have anything else to add?” Perfume asked with a sigh, obviously trying to change the subject.

Mouse cautiously raised her hand, then said, “Today during martial arts, Glyph and Crysis talked about someone called the Messenger.” Then she shrank down a little in her chair, losing several inches before she caught herself. “I didn’t really hear more than his name, and that Glyph apparently fought him or something.”

“I don’t know anyone called the Messenger,” Mr. Blank said with a thoughtful look. “Is he a student?”

“I’ve heard of him,” Perfume responded with a scowl. “And he certainly isn’t a student.”

Everyone turned to look at Perfume. “Well?” Cyber Swarm encouraged.

“I heard the name when I first began researching Glyph,” Perfume explained. “Apparently, he’s a professional assassin, and is the one who killed the previous White Lady.”

That suddenly had everyone’s complete attention. Mr. Blank scratched his chin and asked, “Do you think Glyph might have hired him?”

“That would make a twisted sort of sense,” Miss Violet mused. “After all, with her predecessor dead, who benefits more than Glyph?”

“She doesn’t seem quite that ruthless to me,” Mouse said, though nobody seemed to pay attention.

“I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest she’s quite that ruthless,” Perfume said with a scowl. “But if she really is that ruthless and ambitious, then the school may be in even more danger from her than we’d realized.”

Cyber Swarm stood up, announcing, “Then it’s time we trap her in our web. This villain isn’t going to escape from us…”

Perfume let out an exasperated sigh and reminded him, “We can’t take any serious action against her, until we have enough evidence…”

The Cadet’s leader gave her a look of annoyance and disappointment before reluctantly nodding. “Fine. I’ve got a new batch of micro-drones ready, so we might as well use them. Hopefully, these ones will record something good.”

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Poe Cottage, Tuesday late evening, Oct 4th, 2016

I was in the Poe dayroom with a short stack of paper sitting beside me, while paper trimmings were haphazardly scattered about. Janine was next to me, using one of those large paper cutters to slice the sheets of paper down to just the right size and shape.

“Here’s another batch,” Janine cheerfully announced, while handing me a small stack of cards.

The paper was a good quality card stock, which would hold the ink and wouldn’t wick it away. That was important, because I couldn’t risk any smears or smudges. A single smear could not only ruin a spell entirely, but could even result in unintended consequences. A smudge on a rune, was the same as mispronouncing a word in a verbal spell, which needless to say, was not a good thing.

Janine was in the process of cutting the sheets of paper into smaller cards, each about the size and shape of a tarot card. I had absolutely no idea how to read a tarot deck, and I lacked the painting skills necessary to paint the pictures on them. In spite of the similarities in size and shape, between these cards and tarot cards, I had a different use in mind for them.

As I’d learned in Magic Theory, some spells could take a lot of time and focus to cast, which you didn’t usually have available during an emergency. Because of that, a lot of magic users would cast their spells ahead of time, and tie them to a physical object, where they would be safely stored until needed. Wands, staffs, and gemstones were some of the items used for this purpose, but spell slips were one of the more popular, mostly because they were inexpensive to make. For most magic users, tying a spell to a sheet of paper was extremely useful. For me and my style of magic, it was even more so.

“Thank you,” I told Janine as I looked over the new batch of cards. “Now, it’s time to up my game and move from sheets of notebook paper, to something a little more professional.”

“I can’t wait to see what they look like when you’re done,” Janine responded excitedly.

She was so enthusiastic about helping me with this project, that I almost would have thought she was working on one of her own projects. Truthfully, I was looking forward to seeing her next domino chain, and what she’d add to mix, since she kept improving them each time she made one.

For a moment, Janine just stared at me with her big brown eyes. She was cute, with an oval face and dark brown hair that was pulled back in a ponytail. In a place like Whateley, which was filled with exemplars, Janine tended to blend into the background and was nearly invisible to most students. It was hard for someone like her, who came off as a tomboy and a girl next door, to compete with girls who looked like airbrushed supermodels.

“I really appreciate your help with this,” I said, perhaps a little awkwardly.

Janine smiled even more broadly, if that was possible. “What else is a personal assistant for?”

I chuckled at that, still confused over where she got the idea to become my personal assistant. Still, she was helping me, and didn’t seem to care that I was the new White Lady, so I wasn’t about to question my good luck too loudly.

“This is so cool,” Janine told me, gesturing to the cards and the bottle of ink that I had sitting on the table in front of me. “I’ve seen some of those books you checked out from the library, so I bet you’ve got a lot of really powerful spells…”

“Not as many as you’d think,” I admitted a little self-consciously.

“But I’ve seen you do a lot of spells,” Janine protested.

“Oh, I’ve got some good spells,” I agreed wryly. “I have some good protection spells and wards, but most of those aren’t very flashy or noticeable. I’ve got some primal runes, which can be fairly powerful, but they’re really focused and not very flexible. And I have a few other good runes that I’ve found, but they tend to be more on the subtle or low power side.” Then I paused for a moment before shrugging, “And the most powerful spells I found so far, are ones I can’t even use yet.”

Janine blinked at that. “Why not? Do they need special inks?”

“Some,” I responded thoughtfully. “But a lot of the powerful ones have certain…conditions. I found one, that has to be carved into marble and etched in gold, then it has to sit for a whole year before it can activate.”

“Wow,” Janine gasped.

I nodded my agreement. “A couple of the ones I found are really complicated, and have to be drawn all at once…without even lifting the pen off the page. If you mess up on those ones even the smallest bit, the whole thing is ruined. Unfortunately, my hand isn’t really steady enough for some of those spells yet.” I paused at that to shake my head and let out a sigh. “If I’d known that good penmanship was the secret to powerful magic, I probably would have paid more attention in my old handwriting class.”

Janine laughed at that. “Yeah, I can imagine.”

I picked up a pen that had already been filled with my homemade ink, and told Janine, “This part is probably going to be pretty boring for you…”

“It’s okay,” Janine responded. “I’ll watch anyway. And if I get bored…” She held up her notebook, which contained some sketches and notes about various domino chains and Rube Goldberg machines that she’d been designing.

With a nod, I turned my attention to the first of my cards, and I carefully drew the rune I wanted. Technically, I was creating two separate spells which were tied together. The first was a basic ward spell, that when tripped, would activate the second spell, which was the primal rune for ‘fire’. If I didn’t get this perfect, then the whole thing could blow up in my face, literally, as soon as I poured essence into it. Fortunately, one of my most important abilities was a built-in translator, which helped me ensure that there were no mistakes.

I spent the next fifteen minutes, carefully making several more copies of the same spell. Janine alternated between watching me and making notes in her notebook. Still, even though she was obviously bored, she remained anyway.

“You know,” Janine finally said. “I bet I could make a simple printing press and just stamp that out for you… It would be a lot faster…”

“That would be a lot easier,” I agreed before letting out a sigh. “Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work.”

“Why not?” Janine asked curiously. “I’m not the best inventor, but I can make that…”

“Oh no,” I quickly assured her. “What I mean is that, drawing the runes myself, is part of the ritual to cast the spell. It isn’t just a symbol, but all the focus and intention that’s put into it while it’s being made.” Then with a shrug, I told her, “Trust me, I wish I could just print these off instead. That would be a LOT easier…”

“I guess that makes sense,” Janine agreed. She stared at my project, then down at her notebook for a moment, before abruptly asking, “Could you put spells on dominos?”

I blinked at that, a little startled by the question. “I don’t see why not,” I finally answered. “The hard part would be writing the runes clear enough at that size, and they wouldn’t be large enough to hold much essence…”

“So,” Janine suggested with a grin, “you could make a domino chain with spells…”

When I paused in thought, Janine asked, “What?”

“It would probably be a lot of work,” I agreed thoughtfully. “But yeah. I think so.”

“Cool,” Janine gushed, her eyes practically gleaming with excitement. “Maybe we can try that sometime…”

I nodded my agreement. “That would be fun. But like I said, it will be a lot of work spelling each of the dominos, and it might be a bit of a challenge getting them all set up and charged with essence, without accidentally activating them. It would definitely be an interesting project though…”

Janine and I continued talking about this possible joint project, while I finished up making a few more spell slips. Eventually though, it was time for her to leave. I needed to talk to Scrye about Crysis, and Janine needed to get back to Dickensen before curfew.

“I had a lot of fun tonight,” Janine told me as I escorted her out of the day room.

But as we were leaving, a couple of the other poesies, who were watching TV in the dayroom, began whispering and giggling to each other. I glanced back to see what was going on, and overheard Deci say, “Tinker definitely belongs here in Poe…”

I scowled in annoyance at that. Janine was a good friend, and just because she could come off as a bit of a tomboy, that was no reason to joke about her being a changeling or anything.

“Come on,” I told Janine, putting a reassuring arm around her shoulder, in case she’d heard that and thought that Desi was calling her crazy. After all, Poe did have a reputation around the rest of campus. Janine blushed brightly, which probably meant she had heard Desi and was a little offended. “Now, how would you want to start this domino spell chain…?”

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Wednesday morning, Oct 5th, 2016

I was in Magic Theory, sitting next to my usual lab partners and cohorts, Morgana and AJ. Ms. Grimes was giving one of her lectures, which I normally found fascinating. However, today, I found it hard to pay attention since my thoughts were on other things.

“It looks like those bints are at it again,” Morgana whispered from beside me while gesturing across the room.

My eyes followed her movement and I immediately saw who she was referring to. Melody, Antionette, and Estelle, or as they were also known, Chained Melody, La Mage Blanche, and Hermione, were three of the typical ‘mean girls’ that every school seemed to have. They were pretty, had money, and usually took delight in belittling, demeaning, or outright bullying anyone they thought beneath them. Unfortunately, Morgana and I both fell into this category, mostly because of our unusual physical features.

The truth was, those three girls reminded me of my cousin Nicolette, and to a lesser extent, my sister Paige. Both of them had been spoiled brats, and far too entitled for their own good…or that of the Family. When I was being honest and objective, I had to admit that it was probably a good thing, that neither of them had inherited the mantle of the White Lady.

At the moment, Melody, Antionette, and Estelle were whispering amongst themselves and snickering. However, what had obviously drawn Morgana’s attention to the three, was the fact that they kept staring at us. Antionette and Estelle both had looks of contempt and disdain, while Melody’s expression was more unnerving. She was smirking, and looked a little too smug for my comfort.

Antionette and Estelle had both been annoyances to Morgana, while Melody’s hostility seemed to be focused almost entirely on me. During our first day of class, I’d inadvertently embarrassed her, and then, to make matters worse, when she tried to retaliate and ‘put me in my place’, I had the gall to actually be immune to her powers. For some reason, she really took that personally and had been insulting me ever since.

AJ leaned over and quietly said, “You know, Chained Melody has been spreading a lot of rumors about you around campus.”

I nodded at that. “I know.” It was annoying, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.

“Is that why she’s so smug?” Morgana asked. “Did she make up something new?”

“I don’t know,” AJ admitted. “But I heard that she’s the one who talked Weaponeer and Photech into going after you, so you should probably watch out.”

That made me blink in surprise. Elliot and Marty, or Weaponeer and Photech as they styled themselves, had come after me on the same day that Beatdown had, and in the same tunnels. Until now, I’d assumed that the Bad Seeds had sent them after me, the same way they had Beatdown. Of course, AJ was a member of the Seeds and could just be trying to spin things to take my suspicion away from them, but for some reason, I doubted it. AJ had always played straight with me before.

“Thanks,” I told him.

My eyes went back to Melody, and I scowled. If smirking at me, and looking that smug, then I really should watch my back. I had no idea what she was up to, only that it wouldn’t be good for me.

“Didn’t you hear,” Melody said to one of the other girls sitting near her, speaking loud enough so that I could hear on the other side of the classroom. “That albino freak has been sending her thugs to beat up anyone who badmouths her…”

That rumor was a new one on me, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. Thanks to Janine and her offer to be my personal assistant, there were bound to be rumors that I was recruiting minions and the like.

“Is there something you’d like to share with the class?” Grimes asked Melody, her expression and tone clearly stating that she wasn’t happy about having her lecture interrupted.

“No ma’am,” Melody answered with a look of mock innocence. Grimes gave her a flat look, then continued with the lecture.

The rest of the class continued without any more problems, but as soon as it was over, Melody decided to make her move. She came over towards me with a sneer on her lips. “We don’t need criminals and freaks like you around this school,” she started to say.

However, a moment later, Penny Dreadful exclaimed, “Move it blondie,” as she walked past. The zombie that Penny usually had following her, brushed up against Melody, who let out a shriek of disgust and leapt back.

“Watch it, you freak,” Melody exclaimed with a shudder.

Morgana and I shared a look of amusement before we simultaneously burst out laughing. Then, before Melody could recover, we hurried away to our next class.

Our next class was Basic Martial Arts, which I was actually dreading even more than usual. In fact, I rather would have stayed in Magic Theory and dealt with some of Melody’s verbal abuse, than with what I’ve have to face in BMA today. It was less a matter of what I’d have to deal with, than whom.

After changing into my gi and sitting down on the mat, I looked around and saw Crysis. He was giving me a look of cold determination, which suggested that if we sparred today, he wouldn’t take it easy on me in the least. In fact, from his expression, I was sure that he’d welcome the opportunity to come after me with everything he had.

“Hey, what’s with everyone glaring at you this morning?” Morgana asked, indicating Crysis and then Mouse, who also seemed to be glaring.

“Just lucky, I guess,” I responded flatly.

“Is there something I should know?” Laura asked curiously.

Morgana just grinned. “Chained Melody was glaring at Bianca last period, now we’ve got a couple more kids doing it here…”

“It looks like I’m popular today,” I commented with a sigh.

“You get all the attention,” Morgana exclaimed with a mock pout. “I’m so jealous…”

Erica was sitting close to us, and pointed out, “I saw you glaring at Crysis too. Is there some story there?”

I hesitated a moment, not sure how much I should say. Then with a sigh, I explained, “After everyone found out who my grandmother was, a lot of people became…hostile.”

Tanya blushed at that, probably remembering the fact that she’d been one of the people to avoid me after that revelation. “Yeah, I noticed,” she said carefully.

“Well, Crysis was one of them,” I continued with a sigh. “But he seemed to have a personal grudge against me, and a couple times, he said some things that he shouldn’t have known about at all. I mean, things from back in Chicago, that haven’t really hit the rumor mill around here…”

“Wow,” Laura commented. “I’d be worried about that too…”

I nodded at that, scowling a little as I did so. I had definitely been worried about Crysis, which was why I’d gone to see Scrye last night. This morning, I found a folder with a brief file on the boy, and what I’d learned, had answered a few questions. Unfortunately, it had also caused me to become even more worried than before.

“So, you think he might be one of your enemies from Chicago?” Erica asked, sounding a little skeptical.

Meeting her eyes, I answered, “I know so.”

“It sounds like you’re being a bit paranoid,” Tanya told me in a skeptical tone.

“Just because you’re paranoid,” Morgana offered with a chuckle, “that doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you.”

“I looked into Crysis,” I blurted out, which suddenly had all my friends staring at me. “He’s from Chicago, and his dad works for Scorn…”

“Wait,” Morgana gasped, giving me a look of surprise. “Isn’t Scorn the guy who put a price on your head?”

“Yes,” I replied in a grim tone. “Crysis’ dad is one of Scorn’s top lieutenants, so if I had any doubts about Scorn finding me here…they’re gone.”

“Damn,” Morgana exclaimed.

“You need to report that to security,” Tanya told me. “You know they won’t let anything happen to you on campus.”

With a bitter snort, I pointed out, “They already know who my grandmother is, who I am, and that I have a price on my head. I wouldn’t be surprised if they already knew who Crysis was too, and just hadn’t bothered to tell me.”

“Don’t worry,” Morgana insisted, putting an arm over my shoulders. “You might snore a lot, but you’re still my roomie, and I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

“We’ve got your back,” Erica promised, her expression serious. The unspoken part was that she hoped the rest of us would be there to watch her back as well, when she got in trouble. I wasn’t the only one in our group with enemies, both on and off campus.

“Thank you,” I told them, feeling a little relieved.

Before I could think of anything else to say, Tolman moved up to the front of the room and called for everyone’s attention, effectively announcing that class had just begun. I took one more glance at Crysis, hoping that I didn’t have to spar against him today. Now, I just needed to figure out how I was going to deal with him.

--------------------

Kirby Hall, Wednesday afternoon, Oct 5th, 2016

It was the final class of the day, and I was in my group lab with Morgana and AJ. Today, Grimes had given us a free lab period, where instead of working on assigned tasks, we were able to experiment on our own. Of course, Grimes kept showing up to make sure we were following the safety rules and weren’t doing anything stupid or dangerous.

“What are you doing?” Morgana asked me.

I was down on my hands and knees, drawing runes into the floor in chalk. After double checking my latest rune, I glanced back at my roommate and gave her a wry smile. “I’m setting up a domino chain…”

Actually, there were no dominos involved in what I was doing, though I had come up with the idea last night, while talking to Janine about doing a domino chain together. Instead, I was setting up a series of wards into a simple chain. When one goes off, it activates the next one in the chain, and so on. At least, that was how it should work in theory. So far, I hadn’t finished setting it up yet.

“This is a bit challenging,” I explained as I began working on my last rune. “Each individual rune is pretty simple, but the hard part is setting them up so they go off in the right order. If I do this even a little wrong, they might go off out of order, or not at all.” When I was finished with my last rune, I mused, “Now, to see if I can charge them all up without setting them off.” That was going to be the real difficult part of this.

Before I invested any of my valuable essence into this spell, or series of spells, I stood back and looked the whole thing over again. If there were any mistakes, I wanted to catch them now, before all my work was wasted.

As I silently examined my work, I considered how complicated it might look at a glance. With rune magic, a long series of symbols could easily be a single spell, the equivalent of a sentence or even paragraph, which defined and controlled the end result. For someone who didn’t understand what I was doing, this might look similar, though it wasn’t. This was more like writing two words over and over again. It filled up the metaphorical page, but didn’t really have much meaning.

“Well, it certainly looks fancy,” Morgana joked. “Kind of artistic too, like finger paints.”

AJ, who had been watching me draw without saying a word, finally came over for a better look. “This looks interesting,” he said, giving me a curious look. “I recognize this rune.” He gestured to the main rune that I’d copied a dozen times. I’d drawn other marks on the floor as well, which were the wards that tied them all together.

“Now for the hard part,” I said.

With that, I bent down and carefully began to charge my runes with essence, hoping that none of them went off prematurely. It was a near miracle that I managed to get them all charged without any accidents, so I was feeling quite pleased with myself.

“Now what?” Morgana asked, giving me a curious look.

“Now for the fun part,” I responded with a smile.

I reached down and touched the first rune in line, tripping the ward which then activated the spell I’d tied to it. There was a small flash of light, which showed me that it worked. And then, the flash of light triggered the ward next to it, which in turn, activated another flash of light. This sequence of spells activated and repeated several more times, like a magical chain of dominos. However, the chain abruptly stopped eight steps in, when a faint smudge broke the path and prevented one of the light runes from activating.

“Wow,” Morgana said, flashing me a grin. “Somehow, I expected it to go a little further, but that was still pretty neat…”

“Definitely,” AJ agreed, giving me a nod of approval. “And I think that trick has the potential for some interesting uses.”

I just grinned triumphantly, pleased at how well my little experiment had worked. Sure, it hadn’t completed the entire chain, but I had proved that the concept was sound. I was especially pleased by this, because it wasn’t a trick that I’d learned from Tessa, Grimes, or my grandmother’s book. This was one that I’d figured out on my own.

“I need more practice,” I said, “and a steadier hand, but this could be useful…once I figure out how.”

“Let’s try it again,” Morgana suggested with an evil grin. “But this time, instead of the little lights, hook it up with fireballs…or little explosions so it’s like a bunch of firecrackers going on…”

“That sounds like a great idea to me,” AJ agreed with a grin of his own.

That sounded like a good idea to me too, but unfortunately, we were almost out of time. I probably would have had enough time before the end of class to draw the first rune or two, but certainly not a whole chain. Besides, before I expanded to something a little more dangerous, I wanted to go over my notes and plan things out a little first. And since Janine was so good with domino chains, it might not be a bad idea to see if she had any ideas too.

Since I couldn’t make any more progress during class, I decided that I might as well clean up instead. An eraser and a wet rag took care of wiping away my runes, leaving the floor a blank slate for whatever I needed to do in the lab tomorrow. Once the bell rang and class had officially ended, my lab partners and I locked up our lab, and left Kirby together.

We’d barely stepped out of Kirby, when I noticed a girl standing just a short distance away, looking like she was waiting for someone. Twitch was a cute blonde girl of about twelve years old, and as always, she wore a traditional ‘witch hat’. Most of the time, she had a purple hat, but today, the one she wore was bright green.

“Hey, what’s up?” AJ greeted the girl with a friendly nod, which served to remind me that Twitch was also a member of the Bad Seeds.

“Hi, AJ,” Twitch responded with a wave. She grinned cheerfully as she added, “We came to talk to Glyph…”

I was a little startled by that, and it took me an extra second to realize that she’d said ‘we’. Only then did I notice Twitch’s companion, a cute little raccoon that had been sitting on the ground beside her, as if he was her pet or something.

“What’s going on?” AJ asked, focusing on the raccoon rather than the girl.

Morgana nodded agreement. “Yeah, what’s up with the trash panda?”

Suddenly, the raccoon shifted and changed, and where the furry animal had been, the Bad Seed known as Racoon now crouched. He stood up, ran a hand through his shaggy hair, and flashed a grin. “No need for name calling, girlie…”

“She said you wanted to talk to me,” I said, warily watching Racoon rather than Twitch.

“I’m just here to talk,” Racoon said, holding his hands out with the palms exposed to show that he was unarmed. “If I meant you any harm, I certainly wouldn’t have brought the munchkin…”

“I am not a munchkin,” Twitch protested, giving Racoon a flat look before announcing, “I’m a witch… A Tek Witch.”

I couldn’t resist smiling at that since Twitch looked rather cute. And I was pretty sure, that if Racoon had been up to something, he wouldn’t have involved her. The Bad Seeds might be the children of supervillains, but they were very protective of their youngest member.

“So,” AJ repeated curiously. “What is going on?”

Racoon nodded towards me. “Just a friendly chat is all. Don’t worry, I’m not planning any mischief.” Then he gave a mischievious grin and added, “At least not much.”

With that, Racoon made a sweeping gesture with his hand, before revealing that he now had a metal coin that he was rolling over his knuckles. If he’d been trying to convince me that he was unarmed and harmless, this wasn’t the way to do it. I happened to know that Racoon used coins as his version of spell slips, as a way to store precast spells until he needed them.

“I heard that you’ve been asking around about the Seeds,” Racoon announced in a cheerful tone. “That makes a few of us a little concerned.”

“Can you blame me?” I asked, putting my metaphorical White Lady mask on. I kept my expression tightly controlled and professional, just like I’d been taught. “Your club outed me to the school, and then sent Beatdown to jump me.”

Morgana added, “If that isn’t a declaration of war, I don’t know what is.”

“That wasn’t us,” Racoon responded, his expression turning serious. “At least, not most of us. Esquire acted on his own, and the rest of us didn’t find out till it was too late. To be honest, we’re all kind of pissed at him too.”

“Why do I doubt that?” Morgana asked, trying to look tough and intimidating beside me. I was pretty sure that Racoon wasn’t about to try anything, but I still felt better for having her there.

“Esquire is a jerk,” Twitch grumbled.

Racoon chuckled at that. “Yes, indeed.” He looked at me again and explained, “You see, the Seeds have a rather firm policy of not trying to force or blackmail anyone into joining. We watch each other’s backs, and that kind of thing doesn’t work if there’s backstabbing and resentment. The truth is, a couple of us kind of hoped that you’d change your mind and hook up with us later on, but Esquire kind of ruined that.”

“I told you that Esquire was acting on his own,” AJ told me.

With a nod of his head and a roll of his eyes, Racoon said, “Esquire is…special.” He smirked at that. “His mom, the Iron Bell, is one of those bricks who likes to punch before thinking, and only respects physical strength. His big sis, Leveler, is cut from the same cloth. Heck, she was one of the founding members of the Amazons, back when she’d been here at Whateley. The poor boy can’t get any respect from his family, so he tries to compensate by going the criminal mastermind route. Needless to say, he overcompensates a bit, and this isn’t the first scheme of his that’s backfired.”

“While Esquire’s sob story is interesting,” I commented, still keeping my expression tightly controlled. “That doesn’t change what he did to me.” I still wasn’t sure that I believed the story about Esquire acting on his own, but it was starting to seem a little more plausible.

“No,” Racoon agreed. “I expect it doesn’t. And to be honest, I’m not sure he’s done with his current scheme either… Sometimes, he doesn’t know when to give up.”

My eyes narrowed at that. “So, you think he’s liable to try something else?”

Twitched pulled off her hat and then reached inside. A second later, she pulled out one of those old-fashioned magic eight balls. She stared at it with an intensity that nearly made me laugh, before asking, “Is Esquire gonna mess with Glyph again?” Then, she shook it, paused to read the results, and announced, “It says most likely.”

I stared at Twitch for a moment, trying to determine how serious I should take this. Twitch was young, but she was also a talented devisor, with a knack for making all her inventions look like magical paraphilia. For all I knew, that magic eight ball could be a computer that houses an artificial intelligence, but it could also just be a normal toy. With that girl, there was no way of telling.

“If you want to retaliate against Esquire, go ahead,” Racoon told me with a serious expression. “We won’t interfere, since as far as we’re concerned, he brought it on himself. However, if you decide to start something with the rest of us…” He paused at that to give me a flat look, one which spoke more clearly than words would have.

“You don’t wanna do that,” Twitch offered.

“If Esquire really did do this on his own,” I said carefully, “then I’ll leave the rest of you out of it.”

“Good,” Racoon responded with another of his easy grins. “I didn’t want you thinking that the Seeds had declared war on you or anything. The truth is, even if you aren’t a member, we can still be friends.” He made a sweeping gesture that included Twitch and AJ. “At least with some of us.”

I glanced to AJ, who’d been watching most of this exchange with a thoughtful expression. “I’m certainly not your enemy,” he said with a nod.

“Me either,” Twitch exclaimed. “I wanna see you do some magic writing stuff… That looks so awesome…”

“Then, it looks like we’re done for now,” Racoon said, before asking Twitch, “Are you up for some ice-cream?” The gleam in her eyes was answer enough.

Once Racoon and Twitch began to walk away, I let out a long sigh and told my roommate, “That went a lot better than I feared…”

“Yeah,” Morgana agreed. “No fighting or anything…”

“Oh, one more thing,” Racoon abruptly said, pausing to turn and look back at me. “Just as a friendly warning, but you should know that the Secret Squirrels have been nosing about your business. Make sure that you take precautions.”

Before I could respond to that, Racoon and Twitch were off again, leaving me with Morgana and AJ. When I looked at AJ, he just shrugged and said, “I had no idea Tyler was planning this, but he does have a tendency of doing his own thing.”

“And this is legitimate?” I asked, looking AJ in the eyes. “This really was just Esquire acting on his own? The rest of your club wasn’t involved?”

“I think I already told you as much,” AJ responded wryly. “And as far as I know, none of the other Seeds even knew what he was up to, much less helped.”

“Thank you,” I said with a nod and a long sigh of relief.

Instead of a well-connected and dangerous group, I now only had to worry about a single person. That made my ideas for retaliation a lot more doable. Of course, I still had to deal with Crysis too, and apparently, the Spy Kids as well, but things weren’t quite as bad as I’d feared.

--------------------

Crystal Hall, Wednesday late afternoon, Oct 5th, 2016

I strolled through the cafeteria with a tray in my hand, walking towards my usual table. Tonight, dinner was going to be baked chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. I could barely wait to eat it, or the dessert I’d picked up, a nice slice of chocolate mousse cake. Yum.

When I reached my table, I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the first to arrive. In fact, it looked like I was probably one of the last of my friends to show up.

“Hey, Bianca,” Tia waved to me.

“About time you showed up,” Morgana added, taking a bite of her own dinner. “I was starting to get worried that you got lost between Poe and here.”

“No real chance of that,” I responded as I sat down.

After placing my tray onto the table, I reached down to my belt and one of the pouches I’d started keeping there. It took me a couple seconds to pull out the card, which was made with my new ink, drawn onto quality paper. Without a word, I pushed a little essence into the runes and activated the magic, then placed the card into the middle of the table. This would keep anyone from eavesdropping on us during our conversation. Well, technically my spell could be broken, either with raw power or a skilled enough mage, but it was still a lot better than nothing.

“Apparently, the Spy Kids have been spying on Bianca,” Morgana explained, though she didn’t really need to. I tended to take this kind of precaution all the time anyway.

“I guess we shouldn’t be surprised,” Erica said, giving me a wry look. “Considering your background and all. Honestly, if they’re after you, then they’re probably snooping on me too.”

I frowned at that while nodding agreement. From what I’d been told about the Spy Kids, the whole club was obsessed with playing spy. In fact, Decibelle had once told me that they were a whole club of snitches and wannabe hall monitors, who liked sticking their noses into everyone else’s business, in the hopes of catching them with their hand in the cookie jar. Apparently, they liked to ‘investigate’ anyone who they even suspected MIGHT have something illegal going on. Unfortunately, I fell into that area of interest, as did Erica, because of her own colorful family history.

“They’re training to be in law enforcement,” Jimmy offered. “You have to admit, they have reason to be a little suspicious.”

Erica, Morgana, and I all fixed Jimmy with simultaneous glares. He was a good kid, and he meant well, but he wasn’t the one they were snooping on.

Suddenly, Tavi appeared in front of Jimmy. Tavi was a virtual intelligence, or VI, who appeared as a holographic ferret. At the moment, Tavi looked like he was wearing some kind of keystone cop uniform, which looked odd on the furry creature.

“Book em, Danno,” Tavi exclaimed, holding out a pair of oversized, cartoon handcuffs.

“Even if they are investigating you,” Jimmy continued, seeming to ignore Tavi’s antics. “That doesn’t really mean anything…”

Now, Tavi was dressed up like Sherlock Holmes, complete with the stereotypical hat and magnifying glass. He made a show of leaning in towards Jimmy and inspecting him through the magnifying glass.

A moment later, Erica suddenly stomped her foot and I heard a crunching sound. “Cockroaches. Yuck.”

“Ewwww,” Laura responded with a look of disgust.

Erica looked down at the bug she’d stomped on and scowled. She bent down to pick it up, which was enough to make me think twice about my dinner, especially when she set it down on the table. Squashed cockroach was the last thing I wanted to look at, when I was trying to eat.

“Except, I don’t think cockroaches are supposed to be made of metal,” Erica pointed out.

That drew my attention to the bug, and I saw that it wasn’t a squashed insect like I’d thought, but some kind of tiny machine. There were metal parts that resembled a cockroach shell, but obviously, that wasn’t what it was.

“It looks like someone was trying to bug us,” I said wryly.

My eyes went to the card that I’d placed in the middle of the table, and it was still glowing faintly, an indication that the spell was still active. I suspected that whoever had send this metal roach, had been trying to eavesdrop on us, and was trying to get closer for a better signal. And my friends thought I was being paranoid, because I insisted on taking precautions to protect our privacy.

“Do you still think that their investigation doesn’t mean anything?” Morgana asked Jimmy.

“I might not be an expert or anything,” I pointed out in annoyance, “but I believe any legitimate criminal investigation requires warrants, oversight, and official authorizations. Somehow, I don’t think this club has any of that.”

“True,” Jimmy admitted with a sigh. “This is starting to look more like stalking and harassment than an official investigation.”

“We don’t even know if this was from the Spy Kids,” Tia pointed out, gesturing to the smashed robotic insect.

However, Laura quickly said, “Actually, this looks like Cyber Swarm’s work, since he specializes in these little robot bugs…and he’s with the Spy Kids.”

“So,” I asked, looking to Erica since she was probably being targeted the same as I was. “What do we do about this? I mean, so far, all they’ve done is try eavesdropping on us…”

“You could always go to security,” Tia suggested. “I mean, isn’t that what they’re for?”

“Somehow, I don’t think that would work,” I admitted with a sigh.

For most students, going to security about this kind of thing would probably be the smart move. However, as I’d been reminded on a number of occasions, I wasn’t most students. I was the White Lady. If I ran to security, it would make it look like I couldn’t deal with things myself, which would only hurt me more in the long run. I could get away with having my friends help, but definitely not security.

“So, they just keep bugging us?” Morgana asked with a smirk.

I considered the problem for a moment, trying to think of what Tessa or my grandmother would do. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure what their responses would be, though I did have my own ideas. “For now, we just keep an eye out for bugs…and smash any of them that we find. Eventually, it will either get too expensive for them to keep sending these things after us, or they’ll do something more direct, which we can act on.”

“So, we don’t actually do anything,” Morgana muttered impatiently. “Now, I’m almost hoping they try something else.”

“At least our room is warded,” I told my roommate, who’d teased me mercilessly about all the wards and protection spells I’d put up. I looked at Erica. “If you want, I can put some wards up in your room too, so they can’t bug you there.”

“Thanks,” Erica responded. “I’d appreciate that.”

I nodded at that, hoping that the Spy Kids just gave up and left us alone. I’d only barely avoided a war with the Bad Seeds, and I certainly didn’t want to jump into one with the Spy Kids. I didn’t have anything personal against them, but they were starting to get annoying. As I ate my dinner, I absently wondered how the Bad Seeds dealt with this nosy club. Maybe I’d have to ask AJ tomorrow in class.

When we were done eating, I told my roommate and the other poesies, “I’ll see you guys in a while. I’m going to the library for a bit.”

“Do you want some company?” Morgana asked. What she really meant though, was did I want someone to come along and watch my back.

I appreciated the sentiment but shook my head. “I’ll be fine.”

A minute later, I left Crystal Hall and started for the library. Because of everything that was going on, I paid close attention to my surroundings during the brief walk, trying to spot any signs of an ambush or trap before they could close on me. Fortunately, I reached the library without any problem.

I wasn’t the only student with the idea of going to the library after dinner, but the place was far from packed. The few students who were there ignored me, except for one.

As I walked through the library, one boy immediately caught my attention. He was six and a half feet tall, muscular, and had golden metallic skin. In fact, he almost looked like he could have been a statue of some Greek god, if he hadn’t been wearing a nice business suit, and hadn’t been sitting at a table, with several books open in front of him. However, the thing that first drew my attention to him hadn’t been his size or skin color, it was the thoughtful way that he’d been watching me.

I didn’t know this boy personally, but I’d seen him around campus, and Janine had pointed him out to me. Edward Lowe, the Golden Lion, was supposed to be an influential senior. From what Janine told me, he was a high level exemplar, who’d used his exemplar brains to make himself rich, and now he loaned money to other students and invested in some gadgeteers’ inventions.

Physically, Edward looked strong and powerful, but he also radiated a sense of confidence, and near arrogance. He stared at me for just a few seconds before looking away, and seeming to dismiss me from his very thoughts. With a shrug, I tried to banish him from my own thoughts, and turned my attention to something much more important. There were a couple old magic books that I wanted to check out, to see if they had any useful runes or glyphs.

I spent the next hour looking through the two books in question, but unfortunately, I didn’t get anything useful from them. There were several spells that involved a heavy written component, however, this was only a part of these spells. These spells also included important verbal parts, which meant that I couldn’t cast these ones, at least not without a lot of reworking the spells, and I wasn’t nearly good enough to try that yet.

“Maybe later,” I said with a sigh.

At that moment, I suddenly wished that I had access to my grandmother’s library. I had no doubt, that she had all the books I’d need about written magic. Unfortunately, her private library was probably hidden within her old house somewhere, and I hadn’t stepped foot in that place since the night she’d been murdered. In fact, I shuddered at the very idea of ever going into that building again. There were far too many bad memories tied to it.

When I was finished with my research, I left the library. My thoughts were still on what I’d just learned, and how little of it was actually useful to me. However, in spite of being a little distracted, I didn’t miss the figure who was standing in my path, a short distance ahead.

The boy had a slender build, angular features that some might consider handsome, and dark hair that was combed back. He was leaning on a stick cane and watching me with an arrogant expression, which seemed to suggest that I was there because he’d somehow summoned me.

“Esquire,” I said in a cold tone that conveyed my hostility towards this boy.

I quickly glanced around for my friends, but none of them were in sight. Now, I regretted not taking Morgana up on her offer to come with me to the library, because I was facing Esquire without any backup.

“Miss St. Claire,” Esquire greeted me with a nearly predatory look in his eyes. “Do you mind if I call you Bianca?”

“What do you want?” I demanded, trying to keep my anger and expression under control. At the same time, I reached for the mental switches for my built in spells, preparing to activate them.

“It has come to my attention that there has been a…misunderstanding,” Esquire responded.

“A misunderstanding?” I asked. “Is that what you call outing me to the school? Or sending Beatdown to attack me.”

Esquire just smiled, obviously trying to be charming, but not quite succeeding. “I can assure you, my involvement in those unfortunate situations has been quite overstated.”

I stared at Esquire, not believing him for a moment. “Somehow, I doubt that.”

“Be that as it may,” Esquire continued, as though my skepticism meant nothing to him. “I understand the precarious situation you find yourself in, quite well. We both come from families with many enemies, some of which are inside the school. We cannot trust the school to keep us safe, and must attend to our security on our own. Alliances are crucial. You have influence and contacts beyond these walls, while I have many of my own. A tactical alliance would be greatly beneficial to both of us.”

“You want to be…allies?” I asked in surprise. “And you really think I’ll go for that, after what you did?”

I could hardly believe the nerve of this guy. The scary thing was, I might even have bought into it, if he’d tried this tactic before outing me, and if it hadn’t been for Racoon’s warnings.

“You don’t need to like me to form a business arrangement,” Esquire said. “Admittedly, I’d hoped you would have joined the Bad Seeds, and would have been an asset in that fashion. However, we can still make arrangements on our own.”

“You’re crazy if you think I’m going to help you,” I spat out angrily.

I started to walk past, but Esquire reached out and grabbed hold of my arm. Since I was already on edge, I instantly flipped my mental switch and activated one of my elements. Suddenly, my eyes and tattoos all began to slow a silvery color, and I knew that a rune had appeared on my palm which said ‘air’.

“Let go of me,” I snarled, shoving Esquire with a gust of wind that send him flying back. I was so angry, and admittedly, scared, that I hit him with a little more force than I’d intended. Esquire hit the ground hard and tumbled a couple times.

“No one treats me like that,” Esquire exclaimed as he scrambled back to his feet.

Esquire had dropped his cane when I’d thrown him back, but it floated up into the air and right into his hand. With a swift motion, he removed the head of the cane, and two dozen steel ball bearings floated out and began to orbit around him.

“White Lady or not,” Esquire stated, “it’s time you learn to respect your betters.”

Half the metal spheres flew straight at me, slamming into the shield of hardened air that I’d barely managed to get up around myself in time. They hadn’t come as fast or hard as they could have, so I suspected that Esquire was trying to bruise me rather than kill me. At least that much was a relief, especially since I knew he was capable of throwing a lot more than ball bearings. He was a powerful enough ferrokinetic, that he probably could have thrown a car at me, if he had one in range.

My power was rapidly running out, so I used what remained of my activated magic to send another blast of wind at Esquire. This wasn’t nearly as powerful as my first blast, but it was enough to knock Esquire back again before I ran out.

“Is that all you have?” Esquire asked in an arrogant tone. “I’d expected more of the White Lady. Now, I wonder if I made a mistake in trying to ally with you…”

All of Esquire’s ball bearings returned to him went back into orbit, though they moved around him faster and faster, creating a spinning wheel of death should I try to get too close. He stared at me with smirk, and I knew that this time he was going to hit me even harder.

“Damn,” I muttered, knowing that none of my spell slips would do much against this. My best chance now was to unleash my fire power and hit him hard and fast, before he could hit me. Unfortunately, I was pretty sure that he could attack faster than I could.

Just then, a new voice announced, “As entertaining as this promises to be, I believe that continuing with this is not the wisest course of action.”

I blinked in surprise and glanced over, seeing Edward Lowe, the Golden Lion, standing there a short distance away. He was watching Esquire and me with a faint scowl.

The golden student adjusted his tie and casually commented, “If you two continue this, then it won’t be long before security arrives.”

“You do have a point,” Esquire admitted. He glared at me for a moment, before musing, “I allowed my temper to get the best of me.”

Esquire held out his cane, and all the ball bearings shot back inside of it. Once they were all hidden within, he put the cap of his cane back on and then began leaning on it again, as though nothing had happened.

“Brawling in a public place is beneath me,” Esquire commented, still giving me a cold look.

Though I was tempted to make some kind of sarcastic comment, I bit my tongue and tried to maintain the dignity expected of the White Lady. Of course, the fact that I couldn’t think of any good comments at the moment played a part in that decision.

“Then I’m glad that this is settled,” Edward said.

“For the moment,” Esquire responded. He looked at me again and said, “We’ll continue this discussion another time…in a more private setting.”

“Next time,” I told him, “please make an appointment.” I felt vaguely pleased with myself for coming up with that one, and for keeping my cool.

“Of course,” Esquire replied with a mocking bow. “Until next time, Miss St. Claire.”

Once Esquire walked away, I turned to Edward, who hadn’t moved. “Thank you for breaking that up.”

“There is little profit to behaving like a thug,” Edward said with a wry smile.

“I’m Bianca St. Claire,” I said in introduction. “Glyph.”

“Edward Lowe,” the large boy said in return. “The Golden Lion.” Then, he gave me a thoughtful look. “Of course, I’m aware of your other codename. The entire school is, by this point.”

“Unfortunately,” I mused. “I didn’t want that getting out.”

Edward smiled faintly, though it didn’t really reach his eyes. “I imagine not.” After a momentary pause, he changed topics and said, “I offer certain financial services here on campus. Should you find yourself in need of a short term loan, local savings, or any investment opportunities, please let me know.”

And with that, Edward bowed his head slightly and walked off, leaving me by myself. I let out a sigh of relief and then looked around, making sure that Esquire really was gone. Then, once I was sure it was safe, I hurried back to Poe as quickly as I could without actually running.

--------------------

Emerson Cottage, Wednesday evening, Oct 5th, 2016

Crysis was in his dorm room, sitting cross-legged on his bed. His roommate Cole was out with a friend, leaving Crysis with the room to himself for the time being. That meant, it was the perfect time for him to study and take care of his homework. Unfortunately, he had a hard time focusing on that at the moment. Instead, his thoughts kept going to that white-skinned girl, Bianca St. Claire. Glyph. The White Lady.

“The bitch,” he announced with a sneer.

Crysis didn’t like that girl, not in the least. However, when he was being honest with himself, he didn’t have anything personal against her. Because of Glyph’s position and who she was, she was an obstacle to his dad’s boss, Scorn. That meant she was his dad’s enemy, and by extension, his.

It had been a couple weeks since Crysis told his dad about Glyph, and where the new White Lady was located. His dad hadn’t believed him at first, but after a little convincing, Crysis was sure that he’d convinced him. However, what Crysis didn’t know, was whether or not this information had been passed on to Scorn, or if anything would be done with it.

“I found her for Scorn,” Crysis muttered in frustration.

He’d expected to have heard back from his dad by now, with instructions on what he should do, and possibly even about a reward. Crysis smiled faintly about that, looking forward to receiving some recognition. Maybe his dad would appreciate what he’d done for them.

Crysis continued to think of Glyph, picturing her clearly in his mind. He’d been up close and personal with her in BMA, enough times that it was easy to envision her. Her skin and hair were pure white, while her eyes were an old silvery color. However, if it hadn’t been for her strange pigmentation, she probably would have been very pretty.

For a moment, Crysis tried to imagine kissing Glyph, or taking her for a walk along Navy Pier. However, he quickly laughed at the idea and how ludicrous it was. For one thing, her pale skin was creepy and unnatural, not the least bit attractive. And for another, even if Glyph hadn’t been a freak, they weren’t Romeo and Juliet. She was his enemy, pure and simple, and he wasn’t going to forget that even in some silly little fantasy.

A moment later, Crysis’ phone suddenly began to ring from his nightstand, nearly making him jump. He gave a quick mental tug and it flew into his hand, where he answered, “Hello.”

“Robert,” his dad said from the other end, making him instinctively sit up a little straighter.

“Yes, sir,” Crysis responded.

“I have discussed the current situation with Mister Scorn,” his dad began, getting straight to business. “Due to certain strategic complications, Mister Scorn cannot take direct action against the White Lady as long as she is at Whateley.”

“I understand,” Crysis said. Whateley security was pretty fierce, but even more importantly, there was the whole Whateley neutrality thing. As powerful as Scorn was, even he wouldn’t want to cross the Syndicate and all those heroes at the same time. “What do you want me to do?”

“Watch and observe,” his dad told him. “Learn as much as you can about the new White Lady and report back to me. I will relay the relevant information to Mister Scorn.”

Crysis nodded agreement, though he knew it was silly since his dad couldn’t see that over the phone. “Yes, sir. I can do that.”

“Good,” came the response from the other end of the line. Then, his father added, “Mister Scorn will not act on Whateley grounds, but should the White Lady happen to suffer an accident while there, he would be quite pleased.”

Crysis gulped at those words and carefully controlled his voice. “I understand.”

“Good,” his dad repeated in a grim tone. There was a pause, and just when Crysis thought the call was over, his dad spoke again. “Whatever you do, Robert, be careful. You’re in a dangerous position, and one that may very well determine your future.”

“I’ll be careful,” Crysis promised.

“Good,” his dad repeated again, before adding, “And make sure you call your mother. She worries about you.”

When the call ended a few seconds later, Crysis remained where he was, almost afraid to even breath. He understood what had just been asked of him…unofficially. Scorn wanted to use him as an expendable asset, to provide plausible deniability. If anything went wrong, his head would be the one on the chopping block. However, Crysis also knew that if he played his cards right and pulled this off, then he’d have earned himself a position in Scorn’s organization, one that nobody would be able to say he’d been given because of his dad’s name.

Crysis smirked to himself as he mused, “Now, how the hell am I going to pull this off?”



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