As hard as it was to believe, the week passed uneventfully in most other ways. Luce had some homework, but it wasn’t anything excessive, thankfully. On Saturday, she was sitting in the main area of their apartment with a history book in her hands as she read through a chapter about the founding of Amity, Enmity, and Millennia. Severine wanted it finished by Monday so they could discuss it as a class.
Luce unfortunately hadn’t been given a chance to approach Alistair or Cessair to ask about what they knew. She was itching to ask Cessair in Severine’s class, but she couldn’t do anything about it. Severine insisted on keeping everyone busy a majority of the time, which meant Luce’s spare moments were filled with completing assignments or writing down notes. In other words, the universe was going out of its way to keep Luce from learning more about her father, much to her irritation.
“What’s the plan for today?” Helena asked as she came out into the main area. She had been hiding in her room up to that point while reading over a text for another class.
“I think it’s work on homework and go about life as normal,” S.M. replied with a loose shrug.
“I’m already finished with mine,” Tanith commented from her place on the couch. “If the circumstances were different, I would hit Millennium City and enjoy the day for myself, but Zylphia will kill me if I even think about leaving campus.”
“Didn’t she say you can go to the other schools?” Luce questioned.
“Yes, but I don’t have a reason to go there. I can’t buy any books about legendary figures of Magian history from the other schools. Libraries are restricted to students only, so I can’t check anything out either. In a nutshell, I’m royally bored,” Tanith sighed.
“Maybe you could help me with my homework instead,” Carys suggested with a small smirk.
“Sorry, Carys,” Tanith said, shaking her head. “I don’t cheat.”
Carys huffed and rolled her eyes, understanding her persistence would get her nowhere now that Tanith had made up her mind on the subject.
“It’s a shame we can’t just go into the city as a group. After we finish up our homework, it would be fun to head out there,” S.M. frowned.
“Don’t let me hold you back from going out. I can stay here and find something to entertain myself,” Tanith sighed.
“Aren’t you allowed to leave with a chaperone?” Helena asked next.
“Yes, but everybody’s busy. All these attacks... They haven’t happened at such a high rate since the War of Starlight over twenty years ago. It has everybody in a panic. Some people are afraid another war is going to break out because of all this,” Tanith said with a frown. “Zylphia’s busy trying to keep things under control.”
“Speaking of attacks, it’s odd that none happened this week,” Iris remarked. She had been silent up to this point, listening to music until she managed to catch a snippet of their conversation through her headphones. “The last time something did happen, it was before the year started.”
“Maybe things are done for good,” Sophia said optimistically. She was pulling on a jacket and wrapping a scarf around her neck.
“I doubt it,” S.M. sighed. “What are you up to, Sophia?”
“I’m heading into Millennium City. I heard there’s a place that serves great coffee, and I want to check it out,” Sophia explained.
“I can understand that. Millennium City has some killer restaurants,” Tanith smiled.
“How long do you think you’re going to be out?” Iris asked.
“Not long. I’d say half an hour at most. I just need something to help me push through all this homework,” Sophia explained. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. See you guys soon!”
As Sophia left the room, Tanith let out a sigh. “I wish that were me,” she grumbled.
“Have you ever been grounded before?” Luce questioned.
“No... Never. I never act out, so Zylphia has no reason to ground me. Even this time, it isn’t like it was my fault we were attacked. I understand why she’s so worried, but I wish I could do something to calm her fears,” Tanith answered.
“I’m sure things will be back to normal in no time,” Iris assured her with a smile.
Tanith sighed. “I hope so,” she whispered with a shake of her head. “I hope so.”
Sophia was about five minutes from the coffee shop she was targeting when she heard the sound of cameras clicking. It sounded like a celebrity was nearby with all the flashing and screaming from nearby. Curious, she walked up the street a little faster.
Sure enough, a group of reporters were crowded around a man, though Sophia couldn’t quite see him clearly. She cursed her lack of verticality as she got up on her toes in a desperate and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to see the person everyone was clamoring over.
In the end, she managed to catch a brief glance, which was all she needed. Her stomach dropped before tying itself into knots what felt like a hundred times over. Sophia felt herself grow pale. She took a few steps back before retreating, leaving the reporters to bother the man.
Unfortunately, he was somebody Sophia knew all too well. Colin Shamara had been an all too present figure in Sophia’s life from a young age. He had been set to marry her shortly after her birth, as was tradition with royals on her home realm. Marriages for royal children were arranged the day were born, oftentimes with other nobles who wanted power more than anything else.
Colin was somebody Sophia wished she could forget. In fact, he had been the reason she traveled to Alitia to begin with. After her future marriage was announced publicly, Sophia needed a way out. She applied to Alitia in a haste and prayed to get in, and in the end, her wishes were granted. The last thing she needed was a painful reminder of the life she had left behind to forge her own path.
Hearing him call her name made Sophia’s heart skip a beat. She froze on the spot, unsure of what else to do. A voice in the back of her head screamed to run away, to not give him the satisfaction of speaking to her, but she knew that was much easier said than done. After all, Colin was persistent, much to Sophia’s chagrin, and he wouldn’t leave her alone until he got what he wanted.
Sophia turned slowly to face him, a frown on her face. She painted on a false smile. “Hello, Colin,” she managed to say despite the pounding in her chest and dizziness in her head. The world seemed to be spinning.
“I came to see you,” Colin said firmly, reaching out to grab her arm. Sophia felt tingles erupt on her skin where the contact was made. “I’ve heard about the attacks here on Millennia. I want to bring you home.”
Sophia looked Colin up and down briefly. Something about him seemed wrong. This wasn’t the Colin she had been forced to get to know against her will. There was something different about him this time, though Sophia was struggling to quite put her finger on it.
“Come on,” Colin told her, taking hold of her wrist with his other hand to drag her away. The reporters around him continued to scream and take pictures of the ‘sexiest noble of Fortunia’. “Let’s go home.”
Sophia’s heart continued to pound faster and louder than ever before. Her voice seemed to fail her. She glanced around at the flashing cameras, throwing up her free hand to cover her face. “Stop it,” she said softly, struggling to pull herself away from Colin’s grasp.
“What did you just say to me?” Colin asked, suddenly hostile. This was much more like Colin as far as Sophia was concerned, but something was still wrong. This wasn’t right. He wasn’t acting like himself no matter how Sophia looked at it.
“Let me go,” Sophia told him, speaking a little louder this time. “I’m not going back to Fortunia with you.”
“Are you crazy? There are attacks taking place here!” Colin roared. “We have to take you somewhere safe! What if you got hurt with all the villains running rampant on Millennia? I can’t take that chance, and neither can your realm. You’re a princess before you’re a student of Alitia, Sophia. Remember your people. How do you think they would feel if you died?”
“Stop saying those things!” Sophia suddenly shouted, unsure of where she had found the energy to shout at him for the first time in her life. “You’re manipulating me, and I know it! I’m here to learn at Alitia of my own free will, and I won’t let you take me away from that life no matter what you try!”
Colin suddenly stopped trying to pull her along. He dropped her wrist and began to growl, purple flashing over his regularly brown eyes. “Big mistake, Sophia,” he snarled. Purple flames formed and surrounded him, creating a column of light that spiraled into the sky. The reporters in the area began to scream, scattering to different directions as a way of avoiding his sudden rage.
Sophia backed up for a few steps before the adrenaline fully kicked in. She was running before she knew what was happening, yanking her phone from her pocket as she sent a brief text to her friends.
‘HELP’ was all she managed to spell out before Colin was on her tail again. She felt his hand on her hair, stopping her in place. Her phone tumbled from her hands in her shock. Colin reached one foot out to her phone as she stretched to grab it.
Colin stepped on the phone roughly, his boot going straight through the material. “There’s no escape now, honey bunches,” he said simply, grabbing her hand once again. “We’re going back home whether you like it or not.”
Back at Alitia, Iris was the first to notice something was wrong. Her phone let out a short beeping sound, prompting her to reach for it. The sound had interrupted her song, something she never approved of.
When she read the text from Sophia, she pulled her headphones away from her ears and pointed to her phone. “You should check our group chat,” she declared. “I think something happened to Sophia.”
Luce reached for her phone next and did as Iris instructed. “Damn,” Luce murmured after reading the message. “What do we do? If something happened to her, she could be in danger.”
Tanith, meanwhile, was outside the dorm room staring out the window overlooking the courtyard. She saw a column of purple light pierce the sky. “It looks like that’s what’s going on,” she said, peering in from the open door of the dorm. “She should still be in Millennium City. That light certainly looks like it’s coming from the city. I can’t say where specifically, but with enough searching, you should be able to find her.”
“Do we have a way of tracking her phone?” S.M. asked, on her feet in an instant.
“I do, but it would take too long,” Iris frowned. “If she’s in immediate danger, then there isn’t a moment to lose. We have to go save her as soon as we can. We can’t spare a moment.”
“Is there a way to get us to the city faster than usual?” Luce asked hurriedly, feeling the adrenaline pump through her body.
“I don’t think so. I’m not good enough with teleportation magic to get you there,” Tanith frowned. “You’ll have to go on your own. It’ll take longer, but we don’t have any other options.”
Luce swore under her breath and dashed into her room, seizing her sword and strapping it onto her belt. Iris did the same with her rapier. S.M., Carys, and Helena all dashed for the door as well. Tanith watched them go, feeling sadness and helplessness pull at her core. She wanted nothing more than to follow them, to help Sophia out of whatever danger she was in, but she didn’t have the option to do so, leaving her stranded at Alita.
Tanith dashed into Sylvia’s room, where she was still asleep. Since it was still morning, she wasn’t awake yet. Tanith halfway considered waking Sylvia, but she had faith the other five could handle it without her. Besides, she wouldn’t do anyone a lick of good if she was exhausted and couldn’t do anything to defend herself. Hell, it was probably a bad idea to send S.M., Carys, and Helena off since they couldn’t transform yet themselves, but there wasn’t anything Tanith could do about it now. All she could do was hope things went alright.
Sophia wasn’t sure how long she had been running when she found herself at a dead end. Colin was still glowing with purple fire. Despite the supposed crack down on security in the city Zylphia had mentioned, there wasn’t an officer in sight to help her. Sophia felt her heart skip a beat in her chest. This couldn’t be the end for her, right? At the same time, if Colin dragged her back home, she would never get to return to Alitia . It had been a miracle that she was allowed to leave the kingdom the first time, and her father wouldn’t allow it a second time. Either she found a way out of this situation or she was doomed.
Colin lunged for Sophia a few seconds later. She managed to jump to one side to narrowly avoid the attack. She breathed heavily as she took off in the opposite direction.
However, she was too focused on her escape to notice Colin’s fingers clamping around her hair once more. Sophia let out a cry of pain and tried to pull herself away from Colin. She cursed her long hair for the first time, just to add to the list of firsts the day had brought her.
“We’re going home whether you like it or not,” Colin snarled, pulling Sophia in closer. He was whispering in her ear now, sending a shiver up her spine.
Sophia looked over her shoulder at him, causing her to see a mark on the side of her neck. It looked eerily familiar, and she soon realized why. It was an outline of the hooded man who had been plaguing the group up to that point.
Colin was being possessed.
Sophia raised one hand and slapped Colin, managing to catch his nose. He reeled back to nurse his injury, blood flowing freely from his face and into his hand. Colin cursed repeatedly before reaching out to grab Sophia once again. She ducked and unleashed a kick to his stomach, demonstrating the first thing she had learned in her physical defense class. She smiled to herself out of a mix of satisfaction and relief when he was sent sprawling.
A sense of fear spread over her once again when he got to his feet. Realizing she didn’t have time to linger, Sophia turned and began running once again, but this time, something was different. Something deep in Sophia’s core felt different than before, like energy was coursing through her. It was an odd feeling, but at the same time, it wasn’t exactly unwelcome.
Sophia stopped moving a few feet away from Colin despite every muscle in her body screaming at her to keep going. A light surrounded her, and when it faded, she looked different. Her regular black and white dress had been replaced by one that reached her knees. It was pink and had one short sleeve. Her skirt was lined with black and flowed loosely in the breeze. Wings of a pale purple shade sprouted from her back. She had tall black boots on with matching gloves that reached up her arms.
Sophia realized her hair was pulled back different as well, now half up in a small ponytail. Thin braids wrapped around her head to form the ponytail. She recognized the reason for her odd feeling immediately after noticing her change of attire. Colin’s pursuit of her had caused desperation strong enough to invoke an Isolis transformation. It was similar to how Luce and Iris had changed for the first time, she realized.
Colin stared at her new outfit in surprise before lunging once again. Sophia urged her wings to lift her upwards, and they obeyed her command. She rose up into the sky, fluttering a few feet above where Colin crashed into the ground. Sophia smiled to herself, happy she was getting the hang of things so quickly.
Her smile faded when she realized the disadvantage she was at. Without Luce, there was no way of erasing the possession over Colin. She was the only one who could reverse the process, and since she wasn’t around, Sophia was forced to face Colin and fight him off while still getting the hang of her enhanced magic. Unless she could learn the ropes soon, she was going to get hurt.
Sophia decided to float higher into the sky, her wings beating madly behind her. She glanced around, hoping for some sign of life to come peeking in through the concrete of the city. Her magic worked in a way similar to Iris, as she wasn’t the best at forming energy beams or anything of the sort. Instead, she manipulated the environment around her to her advantage. If she couldn’t find any plants, she had no way of fighting back against Colin, which would ultimately force her to fly around until help came to take her in its sweet embrace.
Sophia’s eyes eventually locked on a small plant growing next to a dumpster. It was peeking in through a crack in the sidewalk. That was all Sophia needed to see. Triumph washed over her as she reached out one hand to increase the height and volume of the plant.
It grew to be ten feet tall in a matter of seconds, quickly tossing the dumpster it had been hiding near aside. The dumpster slammed into a nearby building’s side, barely missing a window. The plant continued to grow, sprouting leaves as a large vine was forged. Sophia smiled as it the top of it disappeared.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” Colin roared from down below. “You can’t stop me with a simple city plant!”
Sophia smirked to herself and pointed towards her. A branch of the plant coiled around her arm, leaving her filled with more energy than ever before. “Don’t be so sure,” she murmured.
Another branch of the vine pinned Colin down against the ground. He let out a roar of anger and struggled against his bonds, but ultimately, nothing he did was able to help his escape. Sophia smiled to herself at this victory before sending other branches of the plant after Colin.
He was trapped in a cage shortly after. Sophia had to admit she was impressed with herself. She had practiced manipulation of plants in the past, but it had never been on such large scale. Her father had forbidden it from the moment her magic manifested itself. She had made small cages out of the plants potted in her bedroom, but anything larger was foreign to her, and yet, here she was.
“You won’t get away with this!” came the scream of Colin as he struggled against the cage. He suddenly flashed with stronger fire, spreading throughout the vine. It sizzled out of existence quickly. The fire spread up the vine quickly.
Sophia gasped in panic and reached out her arm covered in vines. The branches pinning him down were cut away from the rest of the plant in a matter of seconds. She sighed in relief that her means of attack had been spared, but at the same time, she felt bad for putting the poor plant through something so horrible.
Colin jumped high into the air, using the ground as if it was a trampoline, to seize Sophia’s ankle He began to drag her down towards the ground, but Sophia managed to kick him off. He slammed into the concrete, creating a large dent where he made impact. Sophia continued to breathe heavily as he tried to get to his feet. She didn’t know how Iris and Luce had done it. She was already exhausted, and the battle seemed like it had barely begun.
It took him about thirty seconds to recover from the attack, and in that period of time , Sophia made her plant grow higher than before. She hoped it could be used to beckon her friends to her side. If they saw the plant, it would tell them where she was. Once Luce arrived, they could send Colin on his way.
Colin got to his feet and sent a fireball towards Sophia, which she managed to block using the plant coiled around her arm. It faded away quickly, but Sophia got another branch of the plant to guard her arm seconds later.
Suddenly, a sphere of light came out of nowhere to slam into Colin’s side. He grunted and was sent back onto the ground, creating yet another dent in the ground. Sophia gasped, recognizing that sort of blast.
“Luce!” Sophia cried as the girl came into view. Beside her was Iris. They were both transformed, flying down the side of the large plant Sophia had created. Her plan had been successful. The plant had brought them to her side.
“Hang on, Sophia!” Iris exclaimed above the rushing wind. She flew down to a streetlight, forging it into a belt that she wrapped around Colin’s waist to keep him from place.
Luce followed after Iris and slammed her hand against Colin’s neck. He let out a roar of pain as the symbol on his skin was carved away. Luce and Colin both were burned badly, but Sophia couldn’t be more relieved. The battle was as good as done now that Colin could no longer do any damage.
“I’m glad to see you’re safe,” Iris said with a small smile as Sophia landed at her side. “We were really worried about you after seeing your text.”
“I’m just glad you managed to get here in time... I know something really bad could have happened if you were much later,” Sophia sighed with a shake of her head.
“Everything is fine now. We’ve taken care of business,” Luce said, approaching the pair. “I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s unconscious. I don’t know what to do with him now.”
Sophia frowned. “Do any of you know how to make a portal to another planet? I know where he’s from, and I want to send him back home.”
“I don’t know how to, I’m afraid,” Iris told her. “Sorry about that... Maybe we could call Tanith. She knows her stuff, and with enough research, she should be able to find the information we need.”
Sophia cringed when she thought of her phone. “It was destroyed in the fight,” she said. She didn’t know where it was, as she had run a considerable distance since it was stepped on by Colin, but she doubted it mattered. After all, it was as good as debris by now.
“I can put it back together for you,” Iris offered.
Sophia’s eyes lit up at this suggestion. She flew up into the air, hoping to get a view of it from a higher vantage point. Thankfully, she was able to catch sight of it. Sophia flew down to its side, Iris trailing after her.
A brief touch to the device from Iris had it reforming. “Metal magic is helpful, huh?” Iris grinned.
“Thank you, Iris,” Sophia said thankfully before putting in a number to call. “Hello, Tanith? We need your help with something...”
It wasn’t for another hour that Tanith was able to tell them how to get the teleportation spell up and running, and luckily, Colin didn’t wake up during any of it. They also met up with S.M., Carys, and Helena, who had arrived at the scene a few minutes after the fight ended. Afterwards, they headed back in the direction of Alitia for the night.
Much of the day had passed, and now, it was close to two. Study time had been forgotten, now nothing more than a passing thought here and there. Instead, all attention was on Sophia now that she had reached Isolis.
As the six arrived back in the dorm, Iris looked to Sophia with a wide smile. “So, how did it happen?” she asked.
“I was just desperate to get out of a bad situation, and before I knew it, I was at the Isolis level,” Sophia shrugged. “I’m just glad that’s over and done with now... I’d be content to never go through something like that again, you know?”
“I understand that... It’s never fun fighting off somebody who’s possessed,” Iris agreed. “I’m just glad we managed to get out of this fight with limited injuries. It certainly went better than the last battle.”
Tanith approached the group with Sylvia at her side. “Are you guys okay?” Tanith asked nervously.
“Nobody was hurt severely, so yes,” Luce shrugged. “Sophia was attacked by somebody who was possessed... But there’s more to it. The person she was up against... He was possessed, but he wasn’t wearing a hood like the previous attackers. In other words, we no longer have a single trait to identify those people by.”
Tanith frowned. “That’s no good... If we can’t easily identify the people we’re up against, that’s going to make our jobs much harder... What are we going to do now?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Luce admitted. “I bet it’ll be hitting the news soon though...”
“That man... He’s somebody I know. He said he was here to take me back home, but since he was possessed the whole time, I highly doubt he meant it. I think that was a ruse set up by the person who possessed him. He was going to take me somewhere else to fight me for being a thorn in the side of our enemy, if you ask me,” Sophia told the group.
“Our jobs just got a lot harder then,” Helena said, sitting down on the couch. “My muscles are sore from all that chasing after you guys... I can’t wait to get Isolis. Flying will be much easier than running.”
“I wouldn’t be so excited... My back hurts a ton,” Sophia sighed. “I can’t heal it without direct contact, but I can’t exactly touch my back easily. I guess I’ll have to go and see Headmistress Satim to ask her for help.”
“I’ll come with you to make sure you get there alright,” Tanith said, taking Sophia’s shoulders in her hands. The two of them walked away from the dorm room, leaving the other six behind to do as they pleased.
“Things have gotten a lot harder for all of us,” Luce remarked as they left. “I don’t know how we’re going to take care of things now. I mean, we’ve lost our main trait to identify the people we’re up against.”
“I don’t know about that,” Iris said. “I mean, we saw that symbol on his neck. That must be another sign of it. Sophia said it was in the outline of the hooded man we’ve been fighting up to this point. That’s a key trait to identify them by, but I do see how that would be an issue.”
“Why is it a problem? We have something to look for now, right?” Carys asked.
“But a symbol like that can easily be hidden under clothing. It’ll be much harder to see if somebody is possessed. Plus, it isn’t like all people who Luce is burned by are possessed. It’s going to be difficult to identify who we’re fighting and who we aren’t. I don’t know how we’re going to take care of this. For all we know, any of us could be possessed, and the others would be none the wiser. How are we going to work around that?” S.M. questioned.
“We’ll have to find a way,” Luce told the group firmly, sitting down on the couch. “We don’t have any other options. If we don’t find a way, we’re going to be in some serious trouble, and that’s the last thing we need. Don’t let this dampen your resolve. We can’t have that.”
“I guess we’ll need a lot of luck in order to get through this,” Helena sighed. “Maybe we can do some research. Luce, you said you and Tanith were doing research into your magic, right? Once you figure it out, you can determine the types of magic you repel, which would make finding out what our enemy has much easier.”
“And from there, we can get capsules? In other words, it all rides on what type of magic you have,” S.M. observed.
“I hope our research concludes soon... We’ll work on it more tomorrow or later tonight. After I finish my homework, I’ll help her get started,” Luce nodded.
“Until then, we should get back to homework. We want to be free tomorrow, so we need to finish today,” Helena pointed out.
“She has a point. We can do more work on figuring out Luce’s magic tomorrow,” Iris agreed.
Everybody murmured their agreement before moving to take care of their homework. Luce stretched her arms up before beginning her own studies. Today had changed everything she had come to know about the hooded figure and the people with him. It was something Luce hated, but she couldn’t do anything about it now. It all came down to the truth about her magic, which she was praying more than ever would come sooner rather than later. If it waited for much longer, the group would certainly find themselves in trouble deeper than anything they could have anticipated.