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Lady of the Ring (Part 5)

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A Second Generation Whateley Academy Adventure

Lady of the Ring




Part 5


Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 6:15 pm
The tunnels (B2)

“So, this is your lab?” Morgana noted as the lights turned on in Caro’s personal space. There were the standard tools she expected to find, things like a cauldron that rested at the center of the room within a pit for the fires to burn, a luxurious carved table where a laptop rested with its top shut and, at the side, pieces of paper that had been sketched or scribbled upon. A cozy-looking small couch that sat next to a still slightly bare bookshelf that had a couple of books and novels for reading.

The more she thought about it, the more the place felt like an elegant lounge.

“I prefer ‘workshop’,” Caro said as she moved over to the desk and opened her computer, turning it on.

“This is where you come up with your magic?” Morgana murmured as she looked over at the white board that stood next to Caro, one that bore several scribbles in colored markers trying to decrypt magical lines that would be used for the spell, tweaking the language and so on. The one at display at the moment were verses that had been used on the ring’s enchantment.

Not far from it was also a wooden box where seemingly random odds and ends rested: chess pieces, balls of strings in different colors, broken parts of some machines, coins, instruments, tools and so on. No doubt they were all things that could be used as enchanted triggers for her spells.

“Yes… this is where I come up with spells,” Caro said, pausing for a moment before frowning, “Nope, we’re cut off. It really seems like that devisor, Stark, really didn’t want word of what’s going on to leave this area.”

“So, what are we going to do? What did we come here for?”

“This was but a small pitstop to recover…We're fortunate that it happened to get caught in the area of effect of this mess,” Caro said as she turned her laptop off and searched her drawers, producing a thicker booklet, at least comparatively, than the one she already carried. Then she moved over to a box of random stuff and sifted through the objects until she found those that she thought could be useful. How she determined that, Morgana had no idea.

“We’ll be out soon,” Caro added before gesturing over to one of the drawers. “Do you want something to drink? I only have bottled tea, though.”

“I’m good,” Morgana answered. They lingered in silence for a moment until, as Caro got herself back up after stuffing her pockets with the items, she ventured to speak. “That ring is really something. Stark, a normal... heh... normal for a Devisor... suddenly conjuring flames like that... Strength and power.”

“The ring did as it was supposed to do… though maybe a bit more unfettered than I expected. The other parts and qualities of your blood run rampant, releasing their strength along with the side of the dragon, which might be restrained but is not by any means neutered,” Caro mumbled frustrated as she straightened the smithing apron she still wore. “Plus, that strange hunger for power and the deranged way he fought the girls…”

“I can guess those three probably deserved it.”

“Even so… I know Corrine and was worried for her. The way he tried to hurt her... it was like he was relishing it.”

“I swear I’m not like that.”

“I’m not judging,” Caro said as she opened the door and the two soon departed at a rushed pace, with the dowsing rods in hand. “I saw the way Stark looked when he fought you and it got me worried. Worried that the other aspects of your essence clashed in such a way to foster temptation. That they see what the person wants and promises it to them - I created the One ring.”

“Swear this would be funny if it didn’t have my blood in it,” Morgana muttered. “Aren’t we supposed to worry about not getting corrupted ourselves then?”

“I doubt it,” Caro muttered. “You aren’t supposed to crave something you already have plenty of, right? While you had the ring within sight, you felt nothing, right?”

“Yeah,” Morgana admitted thinking back. “And you saw the ring up close. Are you alright?”

“You mean while Stark was trying to claw at me? Yeah, I did. Didn’t feel any sort of attraction or temptation,” Caro thought, slowing down for a moment. “Which is odd, because this sort of spell backfire should hit me the same way as others… Could be that it’s because it’s my magic that imbues the thing? Or maybe because I’m an avatar and it’s one of the small protections it gives me… Even if Grimma doesn’t seem available at the moment.”

“Well… if you act weird, I’ll take you down,” Morgana noted as Caro’s dowsing rods led them down a flight of stairs, back down to the third level.

“If anything, I’m worried as to why Stark wanted to come after me… Probably an aspect of the temptation. Maybe the ring’s influence allows him to recognize my own magic as its progenitor.”

“So, he would want you to make more of them?” Morgana shuddered. “Are we really sure it warps the person’s psyche or wants?”

“I think so. We both saw how the two were fighting for the thing. Furthermore, Firestep fled, taking the ring with her… I’m pretty sure she will be wearing it next time we see her.”

“A speedster with the ring…” Morgana groaned. “Please tell me you have a plan.”

“I don’t have plans, I have countermeasures,” Caro noted, patting the side of her bag.

“Do you have one to stop a speedster’s movement?”

“Hm…” Caro thought for a moment. “A specific spell, especially for Corrine, might be a bit too steep to come up with on the spot. I do have some prepared ones.”

“Like the one that glued my feet to the ground?” Morgana noted.

“You know how hard it is to craft a specific spell? If I had the time, I would’ve designed the perfect magical binding to stop Corrine on the spot and have her surrender the ring… But at the moment, all I have is my bag of tricks and pre-made spells,” Caro noted, showing the book from her pocket. “I’m not exactly a slinging spellcaster. I can, I’m just the worst at it, so I make enchantments and curses with conditions and effects. If I end up casting something that’s too specific or out of scope, I’ll overtax myself, making me pretty much useless… at best. With no guarantees that the spell will work perfectly.”

“Do you expect there to be trouble after this? I can carry you back to your lab once we have the ring?” Morgana said, sounding self-conscious. “You know what? Nevermind. I understand. It’s not a good idea to go all out like that.”

As they turned around the corner, the two dowsing rods settled to pointing forward, into the depths of the corridors. The ring was just ahead.

Both girls exchanged looks before picking up the pace, each of them mentally prepared for facing their possessed classmate.

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Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 6:18 pm
The tunnels. Annex (B3)

Shisa’s paws carried her through the tunnels and passageways. Her steps were quick and silent as she stayed close to the ground. She needed to avoid being seen by either her target or anyone else.

There was clearly something strange going on, so it was time to return to her old ways of skulking about on her own, just to get an upper hand on whatever was transpiring. She had witnessed the techie turn from a sniveling boy crying over his broken toys into something like a vengeful demon, in the blink of an eye. She'd then watched him chase the girls down into a large room and beat the ever loving crap out of the bullies. Shisa tried to help on one or two occasions that would’ve been critical… such as when the boy cast flames out of nowhere towards the large, muscular girl. But for the most part she had assumed the role of a spectator.

Things still got out of hand. And that was just the beginning.

Shisa had no particular love towards Firestep, but no hate either. Watching the way he kicked her ankle and sent her flipping to the ground got her to think that was probably enough punishment.

Fortunately, and much to Shisa’s relief, she saw Caro and Tanya’s friend, Morgana, step in and try to stop the crazed techie. It was a short yet heated fight as the new challenger met up with the boy and matched his strength, unaffected by the heat that exuded from his body. The Whitman Sophomore raised her book to cast a spell and, much to Shisa’s surprise, her paws were glued to the ground, which led her to a moment of instinctive panic, at least until she realized that everyone was in the same boat as her. Part of Caro’s magic.

And then, something fell, clinking into the ground in the same way a needle would in an empty silent room, only neither of those was true. Yet she couldn’t see it past the large knocked out girl’s body. Whatever it was fell off the techie’s hand and bounced off to the ground only to be scooped by Corrine, Firestep, who just took it and ran forward, carving a hole through the concrete, followed by the boy who appeared to have a sort of demented craving after the thing. In that moment, she felt the curse that glued her to the ground dispel and she immediately set off.

She chose to pursue the two students but did so by taking another tunnel to intercept them. If the two had gone north, then she would do so as well and turn towards her left in the first chance she could to catch up to them. It was only after that reaction that she realized she could’ve gone up to Caro and explained the situation, but she was already too far into her pursuit to turn around, and she didn't have her clip allowing her to speak clearly. So, she reasoned.

As she ran, she thought to herself, “If this has to do with Caro’s magic, I should help her.” But, more importantly, she thought, “I want to know what that thing is!?”

By the time she made the turn, she was just a couple of steps away from catching up with the techie, who was running with limping steps, following the flaming footsteps left by Corrine as well as the sound of her sprint. And yet, it wasn’t long before the trail got cold and she got the impression the guy was guessing where she went, making a turn that was obviously in the wrong direction.

Shisa, who was closer to the ground and practically a cat, could easily tell which way to go. Her whiskers sensed the faint heat left from Corrine's footsteps and her nose picked up the girl, though with every step of the trail, Corrine's scent became more… sulphuric? Charcoal-ish? She could place it. All scents and her senses told her it was coming from the same room up ahead and that got her to pause.

She crouched lower to the ground and approached the room with careful, silent steps. Corrine had entered the room, that much was apparent. She was talking to herself, saying something indistinct but… sounding rather pleased. A confident laugh escaped the girl’s lips soon followed by what sounded like the whisper of a flame.

It was all so subdued that Shisa practically jumped when she heard the sound of the metal banging and then that whisper turned into a snarl. Corrine grunted and shouted something as a prelude before the next hits would come, and the next and the next after that, each with a louder roar of flame. And by the sixth one, Shisa heard the sound of metal bending and breaking.

“What…” Shisa's thoughts trailed off as she entered the room, one that appeared to have once been a mix of everything. A small classroom, judging by three long tables and couple of desks that were scattered about in the space; a connecting annex, as the entrances that occupied each side of the square and, at the back of the room, a water processing center, due to the pipes that that lined up the wall, rumbling like an like the bowels of a dyspeptic giant.

But more importantly to Shisa was that her tracking skills were still on point. At the back of the room, where one of the security blast doors had fallen to block the path out, was Firestep, her body stuck in the middle of a swinging kick while a malefic laugh escaped her throat. Her body exuded a red aura that concentrated down onto her outstretched limb.

“And another!” Firestep said as she moved about, pulling her leg back from the metal, to reveal a gash within the deep red of overheated metal. Her foot touched the ground, and she assumed a ready stance.

Shisa’s whiskers got a feel for the flames that appeared to be building. Even if she couldn’t see them directly, she could spy the bright red light and the shimmer in the air that belonged to the high heat.  Her spine shuddered but she still pushed on with the stealthy approach, moving herself closer to the desk to use it as cover.

Without warning, Firestep launched another kick, one that came in sideways. It struck the metal, creating a screeching sound that had Shisa’s ears lay flat to mitigate the grating feeling.

“There are just so many times that I can ask ‘what is going on’…” Shisa thought as she peeked around. The result of the kick was a reddened gouge in the metal, just like in the other.

“Why isn't she cutting herself?!” Shisa wondered, staring at the jagged edges. Corrine just didn’t seem to care as she lashed out again, delivering a kick to the space between the gashes, combining the two holes.

When Corrine’s foot touched the ground, the answer was clear. It was different; both feet were. The skin had turned to a shade of orange or red, with the bridge, ankle and even the top of each toe having grown a pattern of thick scales that were barely scratched from bashing the metal door. Each toe was now capped with a thick black nail that wasn’t unlike the claws of a beast.

Every move she made released swirls of red and black flame as her skin heated itself into a bright, seemingly unhealthy red before slowly cooling to the natural form, but they were never seemingly free from the modifications. Even more important… they hadn’t stopped as Shisa’s ears picked up the sound of a couple of bones and joints cracking. Looking around the corner again, she saw the feet of her cottage mate change bit by bit, becoming something far different.

“No!” Shisa blurted out amazed

And Firestep stopped.

From Shisa’s vantage, all she saw was the girl’s feet turn and suddenly disappear in a blur of red. She picked up on the steps coming towards her and, a second later, a large leg sweep came in fast and destructive, sending the desk and chair flying, catching fire around the edges.

Realizing she was discovered, Shisa’s reflex was to freeze in place. Despite her own speed, she couldn’t outrun Corrine. So she steeled herself, bringing up a TK forcefield and preparing to fight. But instead of a flaming foot to the face, she was met with a much friendlier response.

“Oh, it’s you, Shisa,” Firestep spoke, sounding cordial after a clear sigh of relief. Quite a contrast to how the techie had reacted. “What are you doing here?”

“I-I…” Shisa started to say, looking up to her fellow freshman. She stopped in surprise, seeing that the fire seemed to hover around the girl. “Corrrrine. I am lost,” she said pretending to be innocent. “… what happened… to you?”

“I don’t know, I found this little thing in the tunnels…” Firestep began to explain, she was about to show off her right arm but stopped. For a moment, a slight frown appeared in her face, before she moved her hand behind her back as if to hide something. If Shisa hadn’t already suspected, she would’ve asked. “Anyway, I found this… something that gave me far more power than I expected. I will impress everyone now and no one will bother me.”

“You… look d-iff-erent,” Shisa said, trying to avoid looking down at the girl’s feet or at the fire that stretched itself on her temples as if trying to form up horns. Was Firestep even aware of what this thing was doing to her? Maybe she was willfully oblivious, or possessed by it. She wished Helsing or Emiko were here instead; they knew more about this than she.

A shudder ran down Shisa's spine as she felt a strange whisper in the air. Nothing that she could understand, but still a captivating message.

“Do you think so?” Firestep mused as she held out her left hand. “And do you like it?” She then snapped her fingers, and a flame burned on her fingertips, much to both girls' amazement and shock.

“Well… um,” Shisa muttered as her gaze strayed down to the altered parts.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” Firestep said with a smirk as she admired the flame dancing upon her palm. It was strongly colored red with a dark center that moved with such life that it could only be real. The girl admired it with the reverence of someone who'd just conjured a golden hallowed flame. “I used to find it annoying that my power only worked on my legs… this confirms it. We’re so compatible. One made for the other.”

“What you find?” Shisa asked, her hind legs shuffling backwards almost reflexively.

“Sadly, I can’t show it to you because I’m afraid you might end up wanting it, too. But it’s a one of a kind treasure. It’s so precious to me now, I don’t think I’ll part with it.”

And it was then that the effects of the ring clicked in Shisa’s mind. She’d heard about the books before manifesting, and watched the movies. Helsing also talked about them a lot. She recalled how the ring appeared to offer what someone wanted. She'd seen how Stark used it to get his revenge, and now Firestep wanted it to excel.

She already knew what it would promise her. And, even if she knew it couldn’t grant it, she feared that she would still be tempted by it, regardless. For the chance at being human again, what horrible things would she do? How would she react if someone tried to take it away? She didn't want to be like that again. Hiding her fear, she silently thanked Corrine for hiding it.

“It chang-ing you!” Shisa said, equal parts concern and, admittedly, marvel. After all, if Caro was capable of this… maybe it could really help her.

She bit her tongue. She couldn't think like that.

“Or maybe just letting me be what I can be? Though what would you know?” Firestep said, her once sweet tone souring as she sensed the accusation in her cottage mate’s voice. “Maybe you’re just jealous? Maybe you want it for yourself… Not that you can wear it at all,” Firestep said as her feet shifted and tensed on the ground, being quite aware of some of Shisa’s capabilities from a demonstration before.

“No want,” Shisa muttered, her ears laying flat against her head.

That feeling or whisper was starting to bother her more than she expected because rather than trying to step back and run, she lashed out. “Changing you. Sound different. Look at you,” she said, trying her hardest to make every word understandable. The girl was sounding like a drug addict. “Bad! Take off!”

“I sound different? How would you even know that? All you do is keep to yourself on your own.”

“Saw tech-ie change. It bad thing,” Shisa blurted out, a hiss escaping her lip as she was conflicting herself between the need to defend herself, run or even try to seize the ring. Though that last one, she did so reasoning that it probably wouldn’t affect her since she couldn’t exactly wear it in her current form. “It's Caro ring! Let her fix it!”

“Techie?” seemed to be the word that stuck in Firestep’s mind. “How do you know… you saw it! You lied, didn’t you?!”

“I…” Shisa realized she was in deep trouble as Firestep’s expression turn hostile and, at the twist of her heel, flames escaped like the revving of a bike.

Without warning, Firestep launched herself forward, her foot rising up in a streak of flames. Shisa jumped back narrowly avoiding getting burned.

“You won’t take it!” Firestep called out as she moved her foot down, pivoting to change legs for a low kick. The fluid movement came close to touching Shisa the moment she landed but she reacted by backing away. Fortunately, after that came a reprieve that allowed Shisa to put some distance between them, leaping off the ground, over the knocked over chair, and landing herself on the toppled desk.

All the hairs on her back stood up, instinctively trying to make her look bigger and more threatening. Her legs were tensed to make a jump, waiting to see Firestep’s next move.

“This is mine now! It’s my treasure,” Firestep stated, her leg raised and burning as a taunt or a warning for when the next strike would be. “But… if this is Caro’s ring… maybe I can get her to make more.”

“I really think she has better things to work on,” Shisa thought.

Shisa took stock of the situation. Sure, she’d felt the scalding heat from the near misses. They'd been impressive and hard to avoid, but none of the kicks had actually managed to connect. Firestep should have hit her at least once with her superspeed. But her attacks, while fast, were slow… And then it hit her.

Corrine wasn’t going all out… yet.

“Wait! Get in trouble!” Shisa blurted out. There was no way a single student going through a power trip, even if they were enhanced by that ring, could tear through the forces of staff and security. It could only end badly, and Shisa wasn’t about to let it. She wasn’t a hero, but she was the only one close by.

“For all I care. I’m sure that with this ring, I can take on an army. No one will take this from me!” Firestep said with a confident grin.

"You not hurt people," Shisa said.

“And what can you do to stop me!?” Corrine laughed, moving her leg through the air, using whatever magical enhancement was on the ring to conjure a trail of flames that lingered until her foot touched the ground.

Shisa didn't reply. What could she do? Her powers were strong but deadly. If she went all out, she would badly hurt, probably even kill Corrine… She didn’t want that. Not just because she'd be sent to jail for years. She wanted to keep her hands clean. She'd made a promise and there was enough blood on them already. So going all out wasn't an option, even if she was willing to kill. Maybe she could hit her with a hammer? Try to knock her out?

Her focus split between watching the girl and looking for something to throw. Corrine took the initiative. Her feet bursting in flames, she moved in to deliver a kick on the toppled table. Shisa was forced back into the game of cat and mouse they were playing. Firestep threw desks and debris, trying to force her close enough to grab, or worse, kick.

“Stop! I help you!” Shisa hissed, as she flipped and dodged. That was all she could do. Given enough room, she was able to tap into her TK, giving herself an extra step in midair to leap from. It helped her stay out of reach, but using her powers offensively without going too far was difficult. And she realized that throwing things was useless. Firestep was nimble enough to make lining up the shot a challenge. She tried to grab Firestep's foot with an invisible hand, but the girl smashed through it with ease.

Worse yet, Corrine caught on to Shisa’s trick and became a harder target, keeping her feet from settling on the ground.

“Stop!? You started this!” Firestep snarled as Shisa vaulted over a desk. She chased after, seeking to deliver a kick that would send the furniture flying, but instead, it was the girl-cat who sent the desk up against her with a hard TK push. Surprise and the weight of it were enough to get the girl with the fire sprint to suddenly trip, but not enough to have her hit the ground face first. All she did was stumble for a moment, but it was enough to let Shisa run to another corner of the room. “Come here, kitty! Let me put you in a cage,” she mused.

Shisa was desperate enough to try something she'd only recently dared practice since coming to Whateley. Visualizing a choker wrapped tightly around Firestep's neck, she concentrated to find the balance between choking the girl out and not crushing her neck. Hopefully oxygen deprivation would do the rest.

Of course, her powers weren’t stable, working better as a fast attack or a shield that lasted a few seconds. It did briefly stop the charging girl on her tracks with a painful gasp. Then the TK construct shattered as the magical fiery aura flared around Firestep.

"Great," Shisa thought. "Now I've really pissed her off."

“You…” Firestep snarled as she swiped her leg down onto the ground, releasing flames that spread outwards like a wave.

Shisa was forced to jump again, making use of her telekinesis to create a platform to leap off higher… but that put her in peril. She turned her head, and saw Firestep coming after her with her hand outstretched, ready to land a punch. The air around her fist shimmered with the latent force of fire.

Shisa willed her shield into existence, wondering if it would stop the heat.

It would’ve been a certain hit… But something happened that even Shisa didn't expect, and couldn't explain. The tables and chairs that were thrown about during their little chase noisily banged and scraped against each other as they suddenly took to the air and came crashing up on the wall that was behind Firestep’s back.

Corrine’s own steps became suddenly strained and… floatier? It was as if she was having trouble touching the ground and propelling herself forward, and, instead she was pushing herself up. Before long, her scaled claws failed to touch the ground and with that, her momentum died down, her fist missing Shisa by a couple of inches.

Firestep was suddenly falling. Falling? Just like everything else in the room, they were getting pulled towards what she thought was the east wall, even herself.

Shisa panicked as she also fell sideways, literally, just a couple of strides behind Firestep. Fortunately, the girl was too distracted by the sudden change of environment, as well as the impact against the wall that she forgot about her opponent until Shisa’s paws hit the back of her head, letting the cat girl bounce off and away.

She touched the ‘ground’ on all fours, only to realize she was standing on the wall with no problem, no longer feeling any sort of pull towards the ground. “What!” Shisa blurted out.

"We..."  pant-pant "...made it in time!" came from the side.

Both Caro and Morgana stood by the corner of the room. The former looked winded after making a desperate sprint to press something against the walls, all the while her hand was firmly clasped on the girl from Poe, who looked equal parts confused and amazed by what happened.

And both of them were standing upright on the ‘ground’, which felt completely bizarre from Shisa’s point of view on the wall.

“Shisa!? What are you doing here?” Caro said as she let go of Morgana. The girl let out a startled gasp, like she expected to fall against the wall like everything else in the room. It didn’t take her long to regain the confidence in her step, despite the surrealness of the sight. Her eyes settled on Firestep as if trying to figure how she could face someone who was, quite literally, standing the wrong way.

“Try-ing to help,” Shisa answered as she moved over to Caro’s side, skipping across the void that was the tunnel, now turned into a hole from her perspective. As she came in closer, she identified the object in the sophomore girl’s grasp: a cube. At least, it appeared to be a cube, but it was visibly squished up against the wall, with a strange sort of magical aura that covered its surface. No doubt it was the enchanted object that was making this happen.

“Did you see it-” Caro asked, probably referring to the ring.

“No!” Shisa shouted.

Corrine struggled to push herself up, looking all the more frustrated by the sudden development. As she rose, she took a moment to take in the situation, and her eyes settled on Caro, who stood just by the corner of the room.

Shisa saw Firestep's legs tense, and the speedster's new claws scratched the wall in preparation for a sprint. Caro looked worried and immediately fished something out of her pocket.

“Within thirty spins of the thin hand,

Our contract I order to action,

When upon the ground you land.

I’ll hold you in my palm in a fraction.”

The fairy-tale magus whispered urgently, so abridged that it could almost be confused with a mumble. All the while, she produced what appeared to be a round plate, a campaign button that, upon the words being uttered, the surface began to glow with a premade inscription flaring. And not a moment too soon, as Firestep launched herself into a sprint with a fiery burst that would reach them in seconds. The change of gravity might’ve upset Firestep’s sense of balance but that was a momentary setback. Now she could use the closer walls to reach up higher than Caro could walk away.

“Shisa!” Caro called as she spread her arms. The girl cat didn’t hesitate a second; she just jumped into them as her friend turned around and tossed the aluminum and tin disk back away just as Firestep came in with her leg pulled back to deliver a kick.

The object touched the hard concrete surface of the ground, letting out a hollow clang only to suddenly find itself in Caro’s free hand. The two girls had been suddenly displaced in a flash of blue magic from where they stood and into the room, farther than Corrine could jump.

“What!” Shisa blurted, her words more than half-yowl. Her heart was beating desperately as she tried to make sense of what happened but was nonetheless relieved to see that she was nowhere near that circle of fire that marked where she'd just been.

“That was close…” Caro muttered, but Shisa didn’t have the same sentiment. After all, she was staring down towards the wall-gravity was pulling her towards it and wanted better protection than being awkwardly grabbed.

“Nggh!” Shisa struggled in Caro’s grasp, her little claws digging into shoulders that were, fortunately, covered by the rough material of her smithy’s apron.

“Oh right…” Caro acknowledged as she pushed her cottage mate over her shoulder, letting her climb over her back. Admittedly, it was a strange feeling for her as she felt subjected to the regular push of gravity and at the same time what was practically a weightless cat pushing her towards the side. “Sorry you got caught by the effects.”

“What…you do?” Shisa managed to say, looking ‘down’ towards Corrine as she paced back and forth along the wall, moving closer towards the wrecked tables.

“I cast this spell the moment we entered the room,” Caro whispered, holding up the cube she’d been holding. It was just a fluffy six-sided die, the kind one would expect to see in pairs hanging from a rearview mirror in the eighties. The magic that engulfed it was like a strange mist that lasted a short while once it detached itself from the body, but Shisa could see the edges of the cube begin to darken as if being consumed. “Whichever side of the room it touches will become the center of gravity… Except for me or anyone that I’m in contact with at the moment of casting.”

“That’s… pretty impressive,” Morgana said. “And what about the button for… Crossby’s campaign?”

“Souvenir a friend got me from Berlin,” Caro said as she looked at the piece, the inscriptions on the surface glowing as they were in effect. “It’s enchanted so that I’ll teleport to it wherever it hits the ground.”

“Why not always carry them with you?”

“Because these are one-time use. Button will last me half an hour… dice has about eight minutes left,” Caro explained, showing off the dice as more parts of it appeared blackened or burned.

“Then we better finish this fast,” Morgana said, taking a step forth before stopping for a moment. “Tell me that girl always had scaly feet…”

“No… she didn’t,” Caro muttered. “The ring seems to seep more the more one is willing… That or she’s held it for longer.”

“I told you this treasure chose me,” Corrine called out as she dug her feet, or rather talons, up against the ground, her ‘wall’. An attempt at climbing only got herself dragged back down.

“It has my blood; It’s more mine than yours,” Morgana snapped.

“We made it,” Caro added.

“If you did… maybe you could make another,” Corrine said with a slight smirk, almost salivating at the idea. “Like nine more siblings?”

In the meantime, Morgana took a couple of steps forward, still trying to figure out how she would approach Firestep.

“We have to get it off her,” Caro repeated as she reached into her pocket. On this occasion, she produced a tuning fork, the same thing that she’d used before to loosen the ring from Stark’s hand. Carefully and mindful of Shisa clinging to her back, she crouched down and was about to strike the concrete surface to get the voiceless instrument to sing when…

“Watch out!” Morgana called out.

Firestep was on the offensive and immediately grabbed one of the discarded chairs, throwing it up towards them with a spin. It would’ve been a hard hit, but Shisa stepped in, metaphorically. Her powers created a TK block just in the path. The barrier didn’t survive the impact, but it slowed the chair just enough to leave Caro merely stunned instead of concussed. In that moment, the fairy-tale girl lost her grasp on the tuning fork as a broken chair leg struck her wris. In the same moment, the fluffy cube slipped between her fingers.

“It’s no use! I saw how you used that to take the ring off that pest! Not gonna let you!” Corrine said, as they all saw the die touch the ground.

“Crap!” Caro cursed as the gravity item touched the proper ground and released a wave of magical energy that dissipated the further it traveled. The effects were felt instantly as the desks and pieces of the chair crashed to the ground. Firestep and Shisa did so too, the latter falling from Caro's back while the former landed in a perfect launch stance.

And with a flash of flames she broke into a sprint after Caro. “You’ll make me another one!” she exclaimed as she maneuvered around Morgana's attempt to intercept.

The sophomore’s reaction was to immediately toss the enchanted button to the side. Just like before, upon hitting the ground a blue and green mist swirled around Caro and, right before Corrine could catch up to her, she’d vanished and relocated to where the button was. Still, the empowered speedster didn’t let the setback get to her and was already setting her sights on the tuning fork, the one that could loosen the ring from her finger and strip her of her powers.

“Not so fast!” Morgana was set for another interception with a fist thrown that the girl managed to evade, but she was forced off course. From there, Firestep tried to circle around her opponent, but the Poesie wasn’t letting her, pushing on the assault and forcing her to engage. A precarious situation, all it would take was for either to slip, then either the chase would resume or it would all be over.

“Shisa!” Caro called out. “Get the fork!”

The tuning fork was just behind the dueling freshmen. And she’d called out not a moment too late as Firestep managed to raise her leg to leave a trailing blaze of fire. Not that it could harm Morgana’s dragon form, but it would obscure her view just enough for her to avoid a blind counterattack and give herself enough room to run around her opponent and towards the ring loosener.

Shisa saw Firestep racing for the tuning fork, far faster than she could react. There was no choice and less than no time to come up with a better plan. She lashed out with her TK and sent the fluffy gravity die flying at the opposite wall, knowing it would suck for her too. The cube landed and gravity switched around.

Corrine was just a few steps away from the tuning fork, only to feel her sense of gravity and balance warped again, and with her speed, she ended up overshooting the target, only bumping the steel rod but failing to grasp it. Instead, she just ended up tumbling by the time the enchanted die touched the ground and things went back to normal.

Shisa used the girl’s misstep to get a head start. Pushing her energy into her muscles, she sprinted past the recovering Firestep, nabbing the tuning fork with her mouth. She didn't slow down; even with her power she was slower than the speedster. Racing past Caro, she flipped her head, tossing the item to its rightful owner, all while the fire-footed girl was in fast pursuit.

Caro threw the button to the side just to add more distance as soon as the fork made it to her hand. With magic wrapping around her, she found herself displaced, only for Corrine to turn to chase after forcing her to repeat the toss and teleport.

This went on for a minute or so, with neither Shisa nor Morgana being able to intercept, only to run interference with attack attempts or create constructs in the path, but the fiery pursuer managed to avoid them, drawing closer and closer.

In her hand, Caro was already feeling the coin overheat in protest, and she herself was getting dizzy from the many sudden jumps.

It all built up to a mistake. Acting out of habit, Caro threw the button to her right as she’d been forced to run alongside the wall.

“No… I’m at a corner!” She realized a moment too late as the teleporting button was mere fractions of a second away from touching the ground, and Firestep was just a couple of steps behind. Caro’s world glowed in the same magic that adorned the item, and she was instantly displaced. Anticipating an attack, she raised her arms, but her direction didn’t shift between moves. This left her back turned the moment Corrine came crashing into her.

That didn’t come as hard as Caro might’ve imagined. It could have been that the girl had no deadly intentions towards her… needing her to create another trinket. Either way, Caro was still pushed to the ground.

She held onto the tuning fork, but not the teleporting button, which was swept up by Firestep before it would touch the ground.

“I love the ring you made,” Firestep said, flipping the button between her fingers. “But this… this is one of your more obnoxious tricks.” And with that, she pinched the little disc between her fingers. With darkening nails and heating fingertips, she let out a roar of frustration as she applied pressure. The sigils inscribed on the surface glowed in weak protest, but they did nothing as, right after, a metallic snap resounded. The button had snapped in half.

“There! Now you’re coming with me!” Firestep snarled, tossing the pieces aside. She took a step closer, bearing a wide grin on her face, as if she hadn’t considered the logistics with Shisa and Morgana in place, and didn’t care about them anyway. She was about to reach up when the sound of the furniture wreckage began to shuffle and move in chorus. All she could do was curse as her grip on the concrete ground started to slip. Someone had thrown the gravity die, and they'd had the guts to aim for the ceiling.

Firestep made a swipe for Caro, but gravity had already pulled the witch out of range as she fell up against the ceiling, her new floor.

“I’m getting dizzy!” Morgana said, blurting out as she managed to catch the dice in her hands.

“I wan-na puke!” Shisa called out, not far away. She'd seen the flip coming and had managed to land on her feet on the ceiling.

“Yeah! Me too!” Caro answered as she pushed herself up. She took off running, hoping to get enough of a head start against Firestep who was recovering from the fall. And not far behind her, Morgana and Shisa were moving as well, the former carrying the gravity cube, and the latter running upside down.

“Um… Caro, this thing is almost fully black!” Morgana muttered, no doubt referring to the die.

“I’ll let you go if you destroy that fork! You won’t take the ring off me,” Firestep said as she chased after.

“Pass it over!” Caro ignored Firestep’s calls instead, just turning around to catch the enchanted item. A good bunch of its surface had blackened, charred by the magic, the exception being just one or two spots that were being quickly encroached. “This has less than a minute…” Her gaze went forth to the nearest wall: the one with the tubes of running water and the carved blast door. “Shisa! Jump into Morgana’s arms. Morgana, catch her!”

“What?” both girls blurted out, increasingly conscious of how Corrine was catching up to them.

“Just do it!”

They saw Caro, just a couple of strides away from the pipe, upping her speed, her arm outstretched, desperate for the die to make contact.

“Wait!” Morgana blurted as Shisa jumped upside down into her arms.

But there was no waiting. The enchanted die touched the wall’s surface releasing what could be its final gravity altering wave. The effects were felt right away by all those bound by it.

Corrine held herself close to her ‘ground’, the room’s ceiling, while digging her claws into the concrete and plaster. Even as she slid down, carving lines as she passed, she would have the way to jump her way down onto Caro however she wanted. Or at least, that’s what she thought, but as she took the first leap towards, she was struck on the back by the forgotten desks that had been left in the room. Her plan was thrown aside, and she was sent crashing down.

 Fortunately, the ring gave her the strength to absorb the brunt of the impact, leaving some of the pieces of furniture burning about. But she was still conscious and ready to fight; the problem was that the fall had left her prone… at least from her point of view. To normal people she would appear glued to the wall.

Morgana ran at her, screaming. With Shisa in her arms getting pulled in by the faux gravity, it gave the Welsh girl the extra bit of speed to reach the wall. Tossing Shisa to the side at the last moment, Dragonsfyre clasped Corrine's ringless hand before she could even try to get up.

And just soon after, the tuning fork was struck against the steel pipeline, letting out a pervasive echo that filled everyone’s ears, impossible to ignore. Corrine’s eyes widened as she felt the ring loosen between her fingers. Even as she tried to close her hand, it would be a matter of time before her fingers were forced apart by the growing band.

“No! Let me go!” she snarled, smoke and tiny flames coming out of her mouth as her powers became unstable. She tried to raise her leg but found it pinned by Morgana, up against a pipe. And her other one was blocked by an invisible force the moment she tried to raise it, in the most inopportune of times for her.

That just left Firestep with one limb free she could use, the one with the ring. Out of frustration and desperation, she raised it to push Morgana off. The other girl, however, was counting on it, immediately putting her arm in a hold over one of the water pipes.

“No! No! No!” Firestep exclaimed as she tried to move her arm, striking the steel pipe with a heated fist, leaving it dented until she was stopped by both of Morgana’s hands.

By then, the ring had widened to the point that she couldn’t keep her hand closed. As she flailed her arm, desperately trying to keep it, the ring came off and flew through the air. Morgana tried to catch it before it fell… But subjected to the warped gravity of the spell, it instead fell sideways against the pipe on the wall, where Firestep’s strikes had dented and heated the metal.

The ring touched the metal crater and, with the surface still a bright hot orange, what appeared to be the dregs of the power slipped out. The dark coppery surface of the tube felt the heat, changing colors until…


The ring melted through the outside of the pipe and fell into the water.

“No!” exclaimed everyone present, except for Shisa. She was crouched down against the wall waiting for the next disaster with her eyes covered.

Morgana almost stuck her hand in but had to relent, as the hole was much too small. The strong current was pulling the water upward, seemingly also affected by the gravity spell as none of it was trying to slip out. And to that, a faint rattling could be heard moving upwards, as if taunting them for losing the ring

“Damn it!” Morgana cursed, echoing Caro’s thoughts and feelings on the matter.

“You-you lost it!” Corrine groaned, dazed as the surge of power left her. The manifested fire that coated her fingertips and the shimmer that gave the appearance 

of horns on her forehead had already faded and her facial expressions spasmed and twitched as her feet underwent the process of reverting to normal. “I had the power! I had it!”

“What happened? Is the ring gone?” Shisa asked, peeking from under her paw.

“It’s gone, fell into the pipe.”

Morgana took a big sigh. “I’m sorry, I tried. But the gravity was off.”

“It’s fine. It’s fine, we’ll find another way,” Caro muttered as she followed the path of the pipeline. “Just need to follow the pipes and hope those things stop at some point… at least those things went up-” Caro was cut short as she heard a loud ‘fwoosh!’ The plush cube in her hand was entirely blackened by magical mists around it, which in turn suddenly turned caustic and loud before sputtering away as it disintegrated.

Of course, no one could pay attention to the expiration as they were too distracted by the effects.

Whilst Shisa managed to make a graceful cat landing, Corrine was detached from the wall and fell into Morgana’s arms, much to her surprise. The water from the pipeline suddenly joined the fun as, thanks to the gravity shift, it was released from the hole as a pressurized jet that bathed the two girls, sending them splashing out of the way.

Fortunately, that didn’t last long, as the safeties cut in, and the flow of liquid died out soon after.

“Morgana! Are you alright?” Caro called as she approached her project buddy who was spluttering from the hard splash to her face. Fortunately, it appeared to be recently filtered, clean water.

The Welsh girl coughed out the water before finding her voice. “I’m not a living flame. A little water won’t kill me. I think.”

“Caro!” Shisa warned as she jumped in close, prepared to defend her. “Corri!” she tried to say. Corrine had pushed herself up and to the side in a fast burst just a couple of steps away.

“The ring is mine! I’ll find it and I’ll keep it!” the speedster declared, staggering as her legs reverted back to normal, but that didn’t last long as she was immediately taking steps back and away towards the ‘east’ side of the room, a shimmer of heat and soft vapor emanating from each step.

“Stop right there!Corrine!” Caro called out, but the girl wasn’t open to dialog. Instead she just sprinted out of the room and disappeared around the darkness of the tunnels.

A sigh escaped the girls, a sound of both relief and exasperation as their target had once again slipped away. “This sucks…” Morgana mumbled. “Not my favorite way of spending my Friday evening…”

“I know.” Caro agreed. “But it’s been… instructive?”

“That’s a way of putting it. I would’ve accepted busy too,” Morgana said as she squeezed the water off her hair whilst letting her own conjured heat vaporize it.

“What now?” Shisa asked.

Morgana, who had only met the unofficial Whitman mascot once back at the start of school, gave her a curious look but didn’t say anything.

“Right now, we keep on hunting for the ring,” Caro muttered as she looked curiously at Shisa. “You said you haven’t seen the ring, right? Not directly?”

The girl-cat shook her head.

“Good… for now, we have to keep on hunting.” The fable witch offered Morgana a helping hand to get her on her feet.

“I guess we don’t have much of a choice,” Morgana said as she looked over to the blast doors, the ones that Firestep had managed to dent and break. Fortunately, there didn’t appear to be anyone behind them.

Caro’s gaze went over to the hole that had been made in the lockdown. If she were desperate, she could try to send a message out to call for help. Reach out to the magic teachers to tell them what had happened and of what could potentially be a stake… But that would instantly put her in trouble, considering the dangerous things that were going on. “I can do this… I can deal with this. Solve this while the box is closed,” she thought to herself just to strengthen her resolve before speaking. “Would’ve been much more chaotic if this place wasn’t closed. I assumed that, with Stark, it was a case of him experiencing a power trip… but Firestep confirmed it that there was a corrupting power within the ring.”

“You’re talking about my blood and essence,” Morgana said, trying to inject some levity rather than being angry over the accusation.

“Either way… I’m now convinced that the effects of the ring don’t wear off as soon as it’s removed. They will still fight to get it back,” Caro noted.  “It can’t make it out of here. Absolutely can’t.” Caro paused for a moment. “There is no alternative… we have to destroy it.”

“Are you sure about it? After all the effort we put into it?”

“It was a… a learning experience, but this thing won’t stop charming people because of this error… only when it is destroyed will its influence fade as well.”

“We don’t know that.” Morgana noted.

“If the attraction were towards the power it brought, it wouldn’t… But, because we’ve seen them be unreasonably devoted to the ring, I have to assume that there is some sort of connection. Once cleaved, that should fix it.”

“Hopefully, it won’t fall on more hands. Oh god! I can’t imagine my friends falling for it!” Morgana sighed. “Fortunes in misfortunes. Oh no…” Morgana groaned as she saw just another nugget of bad luck come their way. Caro had pulled out the dowsing rods to continue the pursuit only to see them bent, one twisted in a sixty degree angle while the other just happened to twist around the gold plated tip, shredding flakes of gold.

Caro sighed as she held the tools just like she usually did, seeing if it could lead them somewhere… The result was unfortunate. The one with the bent body seemed to point in the right direction, but it spasmed and twitched every now and then, so it wasn’t hard to think of the thing as broken. While the other piece just wasn’t moving.

“I knew I should’ve made them stouter… or cast some sort of hardening enchantment on them as well,” Caro bemoaned.

“What do we do now?” Morgana muttered.

“For now, we just move up. I’ll figure something,” Caro said inspecting the pieces, holding her hand up against there as if reading the magic in them.

“I…help,” Shisa stated. She had no idea what she could do, but if anything, had a feeling they would need as much help as they could, judging from what she saw.

“Are you sure, Shisa? I think you’ll be better if you stayed in my workshop.”

“I…” Shisa stopped, her brow furrowed. Then she nodded to herself. “I can protect. Can’t let… ring escape.”

“I don’t like it,” Morgana noted. “What if she falls to the ring's influence?”

“Hm…” Caro thought for a moment as she looked down at Shisa, then she gazed at the gold flakes from the dowsing rods on her hand. She scratched the piece of gold, reminding herself that this was supposed to be the metal that would contain the ring. “I think I have an idea that can fix both problems.”

“I don’t think we can stop for long if we’re chasing a speedster,” Morgana said.

“I’ll work it out on the way,” Caro said as she led the way down the corridors, searching for a stairway up.

“Are we… going to... get in trrrrouble?” Shisa struggled to speak.

“Maybe,” Caro admitted. “Though it’ll most likely just be me, so don’t worry about it.”

“How do you usually deal with this?” Morgana asked as worked around passing her heated hands through her clothes, at least what was left of them, to dry.

“Depends on how big I screw up,” Caro muttered. “I usually just gift out apology chocolate and, on extreme occasions dole out favors… Of course, If I’m lucky, I might make it out unscathed, people might understand the problem, dissociate from the events or outright forget ever happened.”

Not long after, the group turned around and found some stairs leading up. “Let’s go!” Caro urged as they sped up. There were no signs that Firestep had passed through there, according to Shisa, so that meant they might be ahead, and with the upper levels being clear from the odd distortions that happened in the Tangle, they felt they might find the ring… hopefully without anyone wearing it.

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Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 6:31 pm
The tunnels, (B1)

“Come on! Come on!” Gianni ‘Johnny’ Rossi grumbled as he fought up against the pressure from the busted pipe. One moment he’d been peacefully awaiting the start of his weekend and for the men of the next shift to take over. The next thing he knew, the shoddy pipeline that ran on the ceiling burst as two connections came ajar and a stream of (luckily clean) water spilled off like a high pressure hose, making a mess on the floor. “Stupid students! Why even have these tunnels at a school!?” He groaned as he tried to force the pieces back together through either shoulder bash or punch.

This was a problem that was way out of his expertise as a non-plumber and non-engineer. But he had to keep at it because this was his job now, something that was way beneath his real skillset and dignity.

“Stupid Rhonda! Not even laughing at my jokes or even respecting my sunny attitude, even if I try to keep it up as I do the shit job!” he grumbled as he jammed the towels into the burst pipeline and then reinforce it with the duct tape. It was a job that was as messy as it could be, with water still firing out, most of it splashing against his face as if to tick him off further.

But in the end, he managed to achieve it, at least partially, having stuffed in two towels to plug in the gap and wrapped it in tape. It stopped the heavy gush and replaced it with a trickle, but that was good enough to call the job done.

“I guess it wasn’t all that bad…” Gianni muttered as he glanced at his hand, where a gold band was wrapped around his ring finger. A ‘treasure’ that had just happened to slip out of the burst pipeline as he tried to fix it. So alluring it was that he dropped everything he was doing to pick it up. The little thing seemed to grow in his palm to fit his finger while the light traversed its golden sheen invitingly.

It was a hollow ear that listened to his woes without uttering a word and an echoing whisper that reassured him that he still had importance. It promised a different kind of power, but power nonetheless, and all he’d had to do was slip it on. That all that he’d cast aside could be once again his… and better

And it felt great.

“Finders Keepers,” he said to himself then and repeated it now that the job is done.

“Ugh… I know it’s just water, but my clothes are soaked,” he groused as he walked over the puddles, soaked in his shoes. “I shouldn’t have to be dealing with this. I really shouldn’t,” he grumbled as he looked down at the ring. Its surface glowed a golden and orange color that seemed to respond to his emotions. “You agree, don’t ya? I was once a high member in a crime family, now I’m stuck here, saddled with cleaning up after spoiled brats… And, to the rest of the stupid staff…” And just as he finished his thought, power manifested as a flame suddenly appearing on his fingertips.

Gianni’s first reaction would’ve been to drive it into the high puddle of water… but he found himself reassured, quickly realizing that it wasn’t burning. It wasn’t hurting him… that it was his own power. A smile began to appear on the corners of his mouth and a slight laughter. “Well, I’ll be damned… This is… really something.”

He laughed as he held out his hand, watching the ring heat up in a more vivid color just to make the flames on his fingers bigger, merging them together into a large fireball that hovered and bounced around as it followed his will. “Yes! Is this what it feels to be a mutant? Power at the fingertips? I’m no longer one of the pathetic employees now,” He eyed the open supply closet at the corner of the room. “But since they’re so willing to leave stuff for me to clean, how ‘bout I do the same?” A flame lit itself up on his palm.

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Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 6:35 pm
The tunnels, (B1)

“Ahead!” Shisa said. The cat girl shook her head again, and almost hit a wall, again.

“Are you okay?” Caro asked.

“Sorry. Not… used earring,” Shisa managed to say.

Given the last fight broke the dowsing rods, Caro needed both a way to channel the tracking enchantment and figure out how to keep Shisa from falling under the ring’s influence. It wasn’t long before she realized the solution for both was the same: Gold. Gold that was used in the creation of the ring and was, at the same time, the metal chosen to be the vessel of Morgana’s chaotic essence.

Flaking off the pieces of gold from the damaged rods, the two girls had used their magic to transform the pieces. Morgana melted them into shape between her hands while Caro enchanted the metal blob into a crude clip-on piece that was fastened onto Shisa’s ear.

Aside from magically sticking to her, the piece also allowed the catgirl to ‘hear’ the ring’s presence wherever it might be, basically pointing her to wherever it was. Additionally, it also altered her vision to a mild yellow-ish hue that Caro was fairly sure would protect against the ring’s influence.

Shisa shifted the lenses a little, and gave a small smile. "Not used to shades. Look cool."

“We can hear it now,” Morgana answered as she picked up the pace. It was the sound of both water splashing and the sizzling, the faint roars of flames being cast along with the crackling embers they left in their wake. It was clear to them to the point neither wanted to say it: The ring had found a new host… and judging by the laughs that came in, it was from an adult man.

“We should go in fast. If we have the chance, jumping him would be the best option.”

Shisa nodded in agreement.

Soon, they came into the room where all the noise came from. A long room with over half of the floor covered in water that spilled from a shoddy fix to the pipeline. Something that, with a cursory glance, pretty much gave them all the context that was needed as the only other person in the room was wearing a custodian’s jumpsuit.

At the back end of it all. a member of the staff was venting and ranting against his job.

“How about this!? Take this! Take this! Take this!” the man snarled and laughed, seemingly lost in his own world as he pulled his arm back to conjure a fireball that he shouldn’t have been able to before pitching a throw towards the other end of the room, where a supply closet rested. Each impact exploded like a firework, leaving a plastered, darkened star on its wake. A couple of steps to the side was the door that had been blown off one of its hinges. He was obviously not going for accuracy or efficiency in this; he was just having fun in his vandalism before actually delivering the strike.

“Now… Onto the surprise!” The janitor laughed as he pressed his hands together. The girls couldn’t see it as his back was turned to them… however, judging by the light that flared, they could only guess that he was ‘charging’ a larger attack.

Morgana and Caro led the way, with Shisa following close behind. They only got halfway across the room before they reached the growing puddle of water. As careful as they might’ve been, there was no erasing their presence, especially when the splashes of their steps became noticeable.

“Huh?” the janitor said as he turned around. A large ball of fire resting between his hands quickly sputtered out as the concentration was broken. He cursed in frustration but at least tried to keep himself civil throughout the exchange. “Oh girls…” he began. “How can I help you? Well, not me because it’s no longer my shift.”

“And, we lost the chance to jump him…” Morgana whispered, getting a quiet shush from Morgana and Shisa, which sounded like a hiss.

“Um… “ Caro spoke out loud. “We were wondering if you could help us. Um… we’re looking for our…”

“Stuff?” Shisa suggested by Caro’s leg.

“Stuff… We just happened to lose it in a room in the tunnels below. Maybe you could help us find it,“ Caro said.

It wasn't a good lie, but they just had to get close to the janitor. Then have him turn his back so they could try to overpower him and get the ring off.

“Girls! I’m sorry, but I quit now. I, Gianni Rossi will be the new head of the criminal underworld with this power.” The janitor said, almost smugly as he raised his hand to admire the ring. “You see… I just came across a second chance to rise up.”

As he did so, Shisa flinched and moved up against Caro’s leg. However, she quickly eased up, realizing that she wasn’t feeling herself tempted by the ring, even as it was within clear view.

“Please? The place below is such a confusing mess,” Caro said, trying to sound polite.

“Hm…” said the janitor, Gianni, as he looked at the supply closet. Where his attacks had been slowly drawing towards. With his dynamite explosions the hinges of the door had been blown off the hinges and he was looking forward to making a good “I quit!” statement.

Though the only thing that had stayed his hand and held off the big bang was the subtle concern that he would be paying for all the destroyed supplies.

Paying? He caught himself in the middle of a gaze into the golden band. With this ring, I don’t pay anyone, never again. Just teach them like the reborn boss that I am!

His eyes narrowed as he looked to the ring, listening to something that only he could understand. They then settled on Caro as the man’s expression bore a smile, though with a bit of malevolence behind it. “Sure, how about we move to search for your… stuff.” And with that, he began to walk towards the girls.

“Really?” Caro said, trying to sound innocent. Even though both she and the girls by her side knew they should be getting prepared for a fight, they still tried to be pleasant so as to not get him into alert.

“Yes... I’m looking forward to a moment of de-stressing, testing up my new powers. Do you see this ring? It’s not exactly a wedding band… but it’s much more interesting and helpful, I can guarantee that,” he joked once he stood before the two girls.

“It’s um… a pretty thing,” Caro said sheepishly while her hand twitched. Just as tempted to spring out the trap and reach into her pocket for the tuning fork. “Could you lead the way?”

“Of course,” Gianni said looking into the nearby passageway. “The place is a mess. The deeper you go the more treacherous it becomes, especially if you don’t carry a map with you… But you can also find anything interesting. Like a forge to make another treasure.” That last part had him give the girls a side-eyed look.

That was all the warning Caro needed; she reached into her pocket and was halfway to producing the fork when Gianni’s hand clasped around her wrist.

“Caro!” Morgana blurted as she tried to jump in, only to receive a backhanded punch covered in fire that sent her splashing into the puddle.

“Let me go,” Caro said, trying to wrest herself out of his grasp, but, unsurprisingly, Gianni was stronger than she was.

“A pile of things to burn? Wanting me to lead you down? Talk about an obvious trap… And your acting, missy. You need to work on that,” Gianni tutted as he produced a ball of fire and tossed it up against Morgana. The heat was nothing to her, but the concussive impact of the hit did the job of keeping her down, if only for a moment a couple of moments. “Sit down, Miss Jones. Yes, I know who you are.  Menaces to infrastructure get a special notice on the custodial boards,” he said.

Shisa tried to step in and move over to scratch the man’s leg as a distraction, only to dodge a kick the next second. With the bit of peace, he continued. “ I don’t know how I know this… but this ring is your doing, isn’t it? If so, how about you come and work for me? Become my go-to gal for magical items? A dozen rings like this would pay a pretty penny.”

“As flattered as I am. I think I’ll pass,” Caro answered. “Shisa!”

The girl-cat heeded Caro’s words and sliced at Gianni's wrist with her power. It was a shallow cut, just enough to startle him and let her slip out of his grasp.

“Sorry, sir,” Caro called out as she was backed by both Shisa and Morgan who mumbled something about getting soaked again. “I had hoped that an adult would be more reasonable about this. But you’ve fallen for it.”

“I’m myself,” Gianni said as he rubbed the injury by his side. “I just want more of this. So many more things that I didn’t know I wanted.”

“Don’t you find that weird?”

“Perhaps… it’s been a while since I’ve held power in this magnitude, I wasn’t aware I would be so wanting to have it again.”

“You’ll have to hand over the ring, sir! It doesn’t belong to you!” Caro was begrudgingly coming to the realization that, with the way this was going, she was not going to have the chance to play-test her own creation.

“It’s not yours,” Morgana echoed.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not ready to part ways with it.”

“We don’t have the time for this,” Morgana said. “We have to destroy the ring, before-”

“Destroy the ring? Destroy the ring?! No!” Gianni's grin went wide and wild. “This thing came to me. It chose me! If you plan to destroy it in the end, then there is no point in handing it back. I’ll give this a much better use.”

“Then sorry, Mr. Rossi, but we’ll have to force it off you.” Caro struck the tuning fork against the steel knuckle of her forge’s safety gauntlet. It sounded dull, but it still resonated, nonetheless.

Gianni was puzzled for a moment, but that expression quickly changed as he felt the effects, with the ring growing wider around his finger, forcing his grip apart. “No-no-no! You’re not abandoning me!”

“We got this,” Morgana whispered.

“Alright, hopefully this will be easy as long as we work together-huh?” Caro trailed off as something began to happen. A strange blue mist began to manifest itself around her, charged up with magic that she recognized as her own.

“Caro!” Shisa called out as Caro felt her touch against her leg.

“The teleportation spell?!” The sophomore girl froze as the magic enveloped her and, suddenly, she was gone.

“What is going on, girls?” Morgana said as she saw the sparkling dregs of the spell’s conclusions sputter and disappear. That left her standing in the middle of a soaked room before a very frustrated Gianni who, despite having a hard time keeping the ring on, still seemed to retain most of the fire powers, as shown by the flames that were escaping his arms and charring his clothes.

“Um… girls?” Morgana gulped.


To Be Continued

Read 1378 times Last modified on Monday, 17 July 2023 17:29


2 months ago
Magical rings are something to be avoided for sure, Caro should have tried for a pendant on a chain instead, perhaps?
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