Before Raven could respond, Lisa stepped in front of Raven, blocking Cindy from her. “I don’t think so.”
Cindy sighed deeply and then shoved a paper towards Lisa. “Principal Kase wants to see her. It’s about her skipping study hall. There’s a guard waiting at the end of the hall.”
Lisa squinted at the note. “Why is she sending you?”
Cindy shrugged. “She wants to talk to me too. Can we go? I don’t want to get in trouble for holding her up.”
Lisa opened her mouth, obviously not satisfied, but Raven reached out and patted her friend on the shoulder. “It’s all right. “
Raven was already gathering wisps of magic and storing them around her suppressor. She wasn’t sure what was going on, especially since she already received her penalty. Unless this was another threat or what happened in the cafeteria was only part of her penalty. Or it could have been about the food that her friends had snuck to her. There were a ton of possibilities. Whatever was going on, it was better to get it over with.
Cindy glanced at Raven and abruptly turned and walked out of the room. Lisa’s frown deepened, but Raven gave her friend a reassuring smile, before heading out of the room. A guard was waiting at the end of the hall as Cindy had said. Cindy was already halfway down the corridor. Raven hurried to catch up.
Once they reached the guard, they were led out of the girl’s dorm. Raven glanced over to Cindy who wouldn’t quite meet her eyes. She wasn’t sure if it was guilt or just that Cindy hated her that much. Raven still didn’t understand why Cindy had decided to pick on her. And from what Lisa said earlier, Cindy hadn’t bullied anyone besides her. But maybe Lisa just didn’t know about it.
Halfway down the hall, something strange happened. The guard leading the way, suddenly knelt over in pain. “Fuck.”
Raven hurried over. “Are you okay?”
The guard shoved her away and Cindy reached over, grabbing Raven’s arm tightly. Raven looked at Cindy in confusion and yanked away from her.
“Damn Illusion magic,” the guard grumbled.
Then before Raven’s eyes, the guard’s body began to morph and instead of the guard, there stood one of the girls from the dorm, Patrice. She was the same girl Lisa had fought on Raven’s first day at ECI. Raven’s eyes widened.
“Oh well,” Patrice said with a grin.
Cindy grabbed Raven from behind and put her in a headlock. The girl pinned Raven’s left arm to her side, not being able to do the same to her right. Raven grabbed at the arm around her neck, digging her nails into Cindy’s skin. Cindy swore but tightened her grip, refusing to let go. Patrice straightened up and started stalking towards Raven, a wicked gleam in her eyes. Panic surged through Raven. She looked around her, searching for help, but the halls were deserted, not even any of the floating crystals were around.
It began to seep in that it couldn’t have just been Cindy and Patrice trying to get her alone to beat her up. There was no way the school wouldn’t have spotted them or that the crystals would be conveniently missing. It had to be tied to whoever was targeting her.
Patrice stopped in front of Raven. “I don’t know whose bad side you got on, but that’s how it is.” The girl grinned and pulled her fist back.
She struck at Raven. On instinct, Raven raised her hand. Water rose up and splashed straight into Patrice’s face. The girl jerked back, mostly in shock than from any real damage. Patrice wiped the water from her face.
“What the hell?” Patrice shouted.
Raven didn’t wait for the girl to recover. She bit down on Cindy’s arm. The girl flinched and her grip loosened. Raven slammed her head backwards. Cindy managed to pull back before Raven’s head butt could land, but Raven wasn’t planning to let go of the upper hand. She shoved her body backward, using her momentum to slam Cindy into the wall behind them.
Cindy grunted and finally let Raven go. Raven jerked away, but before she could move very far, Patrice lurched at her. Raven wasn’t sure how much water she could call at this point, but she twisted to the side and shoved all the determination she had at using the limited supply of magic she had access to. A ball of water shot from her palm and slammed into Patrice’s shoulder. Patrice was thrown to the side, but from the corner of Raven’s eye, she could see Cindy getting back on her feet.
Raven called the water back to her and ran down the hall. She could keep reusing the water like a ball to slam against them, but the impact seemed to only throw Patrice off balance. She wasn’t sure how effective it would be. She wracked her brain for what she could do. Those thoughts came to a halt as a black gaping hole swallowed up the ground in front of her. She tumbled back, staring down as an all-encompassing blackness with no end split the floor.
Raven twisted around to see a familiar figure walking down the hall.
“Looks like you got distracted,” Pete said as he moved down the hall. Half his arm was covered in the same inky blackness of the ground in front of Raven.
“My morph broke. I told you it doesn’t work for long,” Patrice said.
Pete grunted and then looked at Cindy. “Even with luck?”
Cindy seemed to scrunch up under Pete’s gaze. “It’s limited, plus she has magic.”
Pete’s eyes widened fractionally as he turned back to Raven.
Raven had listened to the conversation, trying to figure out what she should do next. Three of them against her, and Pete was a lot bigger and stronger than her. Raven had wanted to keep her magic a secret for a little longer than a day, but the way things were going she had no choice. None of them knew how much magic she had access to, so maybe it was time to bluff her way out.
She glared at the three of them and raised her water, making a show of shifting it into a short blade. It wasn’t that impressive, but at least it was something. She narrowed her eyes and tried to sound menacing.
“Don’t make me fight you,” Raven said coldly.
Patrice started laughing. “I’ll handle this.”
Patrice took a step forward, but Cindy grabbed her.
“Don’t,” Cindy said.
“Are you serious?” Patrice asked, irritated.
“If she can use magic…” Cindy said nervously.
“Come on,” Patrice said. “Is this about your brother and the whole black smoke thing?”
“Shut up!” Cindy growled.
Raven blinked in surprise. “What?”
Cindy glared while Patrice gave a smug grin.
“You didn’t know? Why do you think our Lady Knight here decided to come to the dark side? You fucked up her brother during your little Awakening.”
Cindy whirled on Patrice and punched her in the face.
Patrice jerked back, clutching her nose. “You little bitch.”
Patrice punched her fist forward. Right before it hit Cindy, brass knuckles formed around Patrice’s hand and she smashed it into Cindy’s cheek. The girl was thrown back and crumpled to the floor.
“Next time you hit me, I’ll bash your face in,” Patrice said. She turned her attention back to Raven.
Raven stiffened, she gripped the water blade in front of her. Her mind was swirling with the information Patrice had revealed. All this time, Cindy had hated her because her brother was one of the people Raven had put in a coma. She felt guilt churn in her gut, but she shoved it down. She couldn’t stand around feeling bad. She needed to concentrate on her fight.
Patrice’s eyes gleamed and she took a step forward. “Let’s see who breaks first.”
Pete grabbed Patrice’s shoulder before she could go further.
“Wait,” he said. Then his cold gray eyes pinned Raven.
Raven would have taken a step back if the gaping blackness behind her wasn’t waiting to swallow her up.
“Show me,” Pete said. “The black smoke.”
Raven’s eyes widened. Was he calling her bluff? She felt her heart thrum in her chest and she shook her head. “I can’t.”
“See,” Patrice said. “Cindy was over exaggerating.”
Pete frowned. “No.” His gaze never left Raven. “Show me.”
Raven scrambled to come up with an answer. She couldn’t access her Core and even if she could she didn’t want to see what would happen if she released it. “I-I can’t control it.”
“She’s bluffing,” Patrice said, growing impatient. “Let me just -“
“Okay,” Pete said calmly.
Both Raven and Patrice looked at him questioningly.
Pete held up a small metal box and tapped it. A hologram screen popped up with a countdown. Three minutes slid down the clock. “Time’s almost up. Head back.”
Patrice sighed. “Waste of time.”
Patrice marched forward. Raven tightened her grip on her blade. But Patrice didn’t attack, just walked pass her. Raven whirled in surprise. The black hole behind her was gone. Patrice kept walking without looking back.
Raven turned back to see the black strands sinking back into Pete’s hand. Seeing it reminded her of her black tendrils, but she could tell Pete’s abilities were different from her own. At least she thought it was. Pete gave her a thoughtful look before tossing a coin towards Raven. Raven watched the coin fall to the ground before Pete turned and walked away.
She wasn’t sure what was going on. She walked over to the coin and picked it up. It was a perk. She frowned, not sure why Pete had left this for her. It was clear he had been part of this set up to beat her up. It confused her, but right now the thought of the timer crossed her mind. She wasn’t sure if that meant if she was still out in the hall she would be faced with another penalty.
Movement caught her eye and she saw Cindy pulling herself up from the ground.
“Are you all right?” Raven asked, taking a step forward.
“Stay away from me,” Cindy said, straightening up, slowly.
“You’re hurt,” Raven said, taking another step forward.
“So what?” Cindy said.
Raven shifted awkwardly. “I’m sorry…about your brother.”
“Do you think I give a shit about how sorry you feel?” Cindy asked and began shuffling down the hall.
Raven followed, keeping pace with the girl. She didn’t apologize again. Instead, she kept an eye on Cindy. The girl looked like she had gotten hurt a lot worse than Raven thought. She was limping slightly.
But even if she was hurt, the girl kept going, never once allowing Raven to get near enough to help.
“Stop meddling,” Cindy growled out.
“Can’t,” Raven said stubbornly. “Got to stay close in case you faint or something.”
“I’m not going to faint,” Cindy said, annoyed.
Raven shrugged and they continued down the hall. At some point, the crystals came back out and Raven figured their time limit was up. She held out her perk, hoping against hope, it would be enough. The crystal scanned it and turned green then bypassed them.
Cindy glanced at Raven with a frown and then continued down the hall. She didn’t complain again. Once they reached the entrance to the girls’ dorm, the guard that had been suspiciously gone when they had left was back. Raven held out the perk, which the guard scanned and then took.
“What’s wrong with her?” The guard asked, nodding to Cindy.
“I tripped and feel wrong,” Cindy said quickly.
The guard looked her over and then shrugged. “You need Old BB’s?”
Cindy shook her head. “I’ll be fine once I’m off it.”
The guard nodded and opened the dorm door. The girls continued down the hall. Once they were back in the dorm, Cindy turned to head to her room, but Raven grabbed her arm.
“I know you don’t want to hear it, but I am sorry for what happened to your brother,” Raven said quickly. “I didn’t want to hurt him or anyone.”
Cindy frowned and jerked her arm away. “Like I said, I don’t want your apologies.”
Raven watched as Cindy walked away, before turning and heading to her own room.