Do You Want To Know A Secret?

[One Week Ago]

Sechson had reached the end of a hall, and stood in front of two large wooden doors. They were much taller than him, varnished dark brown, and fitted with golden looking hinges and fixtures. A second, smaller door to his right unlocked with a loud click. A red Skeith stepped out from a dark room. He couldn’t see much from where he was standing, and the Skeith closed the door behind him. He looked Sechson up and down.

Afernoon. The Servant of the Message has been esspectin you.
Sechson nodded with respect I understand. Thank you.
Skeith turned without speaking and opened the small door, and walked back in. Sechson waited as a few moments passed. There was a loud clunk, then what sounded like metal sliding against metal, and then another clunk. The wooden double doors opened by themselves, and Sechson took this as a cue to go forward.

The room was darkened, but he could tell it was massive. The ceiling extended several meters into the air, and he couldn’t even see the sides of the room to his left and right. Before him was what looked to be either a stage or a pulpit, one and a half meters tall, and made of wood. A large glass tunnel went down what appeared to be the center of the room (to Sechson’s right), and it looked large enough for only a single person to comfortably walk through it. It extended to the pulpit, up some stairs to it. The entire structure was surrounded by this glass, like a forcefield. An aquarium came to Sechson’s mind when looking at it. Inside was a figure.

The being reclined in a large wooden chair, one leg over another, resting one arm on the arms of the chair, and holding up a large white chalice with the other. He was almost blinding white, no color at all to his body and clothes: skin, hair, and even the irises of his eyes were an empty white. He wore a white business suit, enrobed by a stole that went down to his knees. He smiled.

Sechson. he chuckled, I hope you’ve been well.
The voice always struck Sechson with a moment of terror when he spoke. The Bori reached a reasonable distance to the pulpit and lowered himself to one knee, bowing his head. The pale figure took a drink from the chalice, ice inside clinking against it.

Do you know why I’ve sent for you?
I do not, sir.
First, it is a thing of contrivance. It was only by an improbable coincidence that I was made aware of this, and how you would be perfect for the job. And secondly… he shifted in his chair …it is because I’m proud of you. You’ve passed your fifth test, by a wide margin. And now, sooner than expected, you’re getting your sixth, directly from me this time.
Thank you very much sir. I’m honored.
Mmm, of course. Have you heard the outsiders speak of tragic accidents, and strange creatures? From those worldly people not protected by our faith?
No sir, Sechson shook his head, I have not.
Well, you have now. These stories are apparently true. There is a demonic foulness bubbling up within this city. And I think… with your talents… and the faith, the divine Rage, that I’ve seen in you, that you can help them in solving this crisis.
No, not demons. Dangerous monsters aligned with demons. You understand?
I’ll… try my best.
Of course. I want you to go out, among the faithless, and seek all that is known about ghouls. Track them, record all that you find, and bring that information to us.
Among the faithless?
I’m not worried. Your faith is strong. You should worry far more about ghouls. You can filter the lies of this world, but tooth and claw will be far harder to ignore.
I understand. I’ll go right away.

The figure smiled, leaned back, and raised his chalice higher:
Good. I have great faith in you.
Thank you. I’m honored, and humbled by you.
He chortled Of course.

[Present Day]

Kenji walked with his hands in his pockets, the only thing standing out from the background was his reddish fur, and the streetlights behind him. He walked down the concrete sidewalk slow and deliberate, fighting his sleepiness off as best as he could. He reached the bottom of the hill, and turned on the trail that led into the college campus. His eyes closed to blink.

Hey Kenji!

He snapped his eyes back open, and shook his head. Vert was walking beside him to his right, waving at him. He felt panic inside him, and his heart started beating far faster as he realized his surroundings had changed.

Are you sleepwalkin or what?
Kenji blinked a few more times and shook his head again. N… no. I… maybe? I’m sorry. I didn’t do anything embarrassing, did I?
What? No, you were just kinda walkin around.
That’s… strange. I guess I’ve walked around campus enough while awake to… ano… make it around okay.
That’s kinda cool actually! Don’t do that though. It’s probably not good for you.
It’s okay… I think. I just need to go to the library.
At this hour? Vert scoffed, but still looked concerned, Kenji, you’re in no state to be reading anything, you’re gonna fall over in there and I’m gonna have to drag you out.
A chill went up the back of his neck when she said that. He ignored it, and shook his head. No, no… I hope not. I’m fine.
Hm-mm, nah. I’m going with you.

Kenji began to protest, but just sighed, then nodded. Alright. I’m sorry. You didn’t have to…
Hey, it’s no problem. I uh… feel bad about you guys losing your room. I really hope you don’t think….
No, no. Don’t worry. I didn’t assume anything.
Oh, thank goodness. Well… did it work out okay?
I think so. We have a place now.
Oh, that’s good.

Kenji looked back up at her as they walked Why are you out here so late?
Vert changed her expression to resignation: Drama stuff. Rose drilled us for hours on our lines, me definitely included.
The drama club president.
He remembered the Lupe, dressed in blue, Oh, I see.
Yeah. She’s not usually like this, she’s just… she’s just in a really, really bad mood about the whole thing. She says she’s making up for lost time, but I don’t care, it’s exhausting. It’s a good thing I like The Forest Prince, or else I’d probably get so fed up… I might even look for a different club entirely at that point.

Vert and Kenji arrived at the same building that he’d walked out of not even a few hours ago. Though now there wasn’t a boombox pumping out rock music on the steps. The entrance to the library was a massive semicircle of stairs that led up to a platform, and into many glass double doors, though at this late hour, only one pair was unlocked. Vert entered first, and there was a small bell chime that went off as they opened the door.

The inside of the library was massive, and you could tell even from just the receptionist’s desk. The entire place was made of wood, tiled together or in huge beams. Occasionally, the odd pillar or shelf would have a smattering of leaves, as though alive and had been grown into shape rather than cut. Just visible were ostentatious and detailed stained glass windows, in motifs of trees, scholars, ancient royalty, and the yellow and green sun, the heraldic crest of Brightvale. There seemed to be a dark blue fog, just barely visible in the distance, but Kenji assumed that it was just the sparse lighting, or just him imagining things in his sleepiness. A tired looking Yurble looked up from something behind their desk.

Oh, you’re up late aren’t ye?
Hey, yeah, sorry. My friend here needed something.
Fine, sure, they nodded, just be careful.
Thank you. Vert nodded.

They both went deeper into the library, Vert close behind Kenji. He kept accidentally scuffing the carpet as he walked. She looked around. After a moment of silence, she spoke up to him.

So what’s all this about huh?
Oh, ah… club stuff.
You too? At this hour? Why can’t you do it tomorrow?
Can’t. I’ve got a full day of classes tomorrow.
She sighs Good grief. Did you tell them that?
You should have.
Mm. Kenji stopped by a shelf, looking at the section label on it.

130 — Parapsychology, Paranormal, & Occultism

He turned and walked down into the darkness, and Vert followed. Kenji started pulling out and looking at books. He’d pulled a list, a small slip of paper, from his pocket, and was checking for something, book titles, she assumed.
Looking for something specifically?
Sou, sou. Looking for… accurate? Truthful? he looked to her Is that the word?
Yeah, I guess so. he nodded as she continued, I take it some of these are more reliable than others?
Yes. Most are pretend.
She raised her eyebrows and looked to the side, but didn’t say anything about what she was thinking.

So what is all this for? I thought you knew this stuff already.
Well no, not all. But it’s not for me, this time. About the club, there’s… a new member.
Ah, nice! Wait, then why didn’t they just come here?
Not public. Only students who go to school here are allowed in after hours.
Wait… he’s in your after-school club… but he doesn’t go to school?
Not here.
Oh. …Is that… allowed?
Warren seems to think so.
The club bice-pressiden. His eyes were blinking slower, and he slurred his words a bit.
Ahh. Well I guess he has the say on that, then.

There was a distant sound of shattering glass.

Vert turned around, and Kenji looked up from the books and his paper.
Hey… did you hear that? she asked.
Somethin just… hold… hold on a second, I’m gonna check it out.

Kenji looked down and went back to comparing book titles, though she did notice he was doing it faster than before. There was an ache growing in her head, and she turned away, walking out of the paranormal isle. Her head was buzzing with pain, and there was a high pitched sound in her ears that she knew wasn’t real. She leaned against another shelf with one hand, and held her forehead with the other, leaning forward and almost stumbling down. She saw sparks of light in her eyes. She looked to where the shattering had come from, and there was a hole in one of the stained glass ceilings. She looked down to where the glass had fallen, and saw that there was something driven blade-down, into the wood.

It was a machete.

She walked up to it. The blade wobbled a little, but did nothing else. She hesitated, then picked it up, looking it over.

This is… this is my machete…. she whispered to herself, How did it get here…?

She looked back up to the hole in the ceiling. She turned the blade in her hand, and moved it around. She saw a reddish blur where Kenji was in the reflection behind her. She tilted it back to see him again. He was still looking at books.

Someone was behind him. Her eyes went wide and her heart raced, not getting a chance to slow down as she whipped around.

Kenji! Behind you!
He turned around, then dropped the book he was holding as a blue figure grabbed him by the throat. Vert went towards them without a plan, and looked whoever it was up and down. They were a cold shade of blue, with black eyes, a long grey beard, and ancient, almost (Victorian? Neovian?) clothes. She could hardly tell what species they were from all the hair (Wocky? Usul?) but it didn’t matter to her right now. The stranger lifted Kenji off the ground by the neck, and he winced. Holy shit it’s a fucking ghost. she thought to herself, terrified. It looked at her running towards them, and then looked away, apparently not impressed by her. Now she was scared and mad.

She raised the machete above her head and flung it down as hard as she could, and the stranger’s arm bent in a sickening crunch. He yelped in surprise and let go of Kenji. Vert screamed too. She thought it would dissolve into mist, or maybe pop off like a cartoon, but black blood and blue flesh ripped away. The stranger stared at his arm, looking frightened at first, but after a moment, and some flexing of his fingers, looked back towards them. Kenji had slumped down, and was trying to push himself away with one leg.

Kenji run.
I can’t… something’s wrong with… half of me…

She took a closer look. Half of Kenji’s body had been frozen on the left side, somehow, and an ice-like chunk of his neck was imprinted in what looked like the shape of a hand. But it wasn’t ice, it was all the same color as the rest of him, but blurred, and even his clothes looked like it had gone angular and crystalline.

Magic…? she wondered aloud, glaring at the stranger.
He walked closer. Not exactly… as you would understand it.
Hey don’t you take one step. You understand me? she waved her machete, There’s more where that came from, asshole! Your head’s next!

She noticed him hesitate. He was looking at his arm. She gripped the machete tighter and took a step towards them. He took a step back.

Fine, brat. I’ll find someone else.
Hey! No! Don’t run away from me! but as soon as she had shouted it after him, the stranger had melted into the blue mist behind him. She looked around, then, after seeing nothing, looked back to Kenji. She ran back towards him and lifted him up, putting one of his arms over and behind her head.

I don’t know how much longer I could have kept that up. I feel like I’m gonna throw up. Let’s get you outta here. she whispered at him, having to drag him away from the shelves. Her boots shuffled down the carpeted stairs as she ran towards the Yurble at the reception desk. Kenji’s frozen foot knocked against each step with a rocky thud.
Does that hurt?
No. Can’t feel anything on that side.
Hhhh. I don’t know if that’s good or not.

She could hear the Yurble running up from the desk before she could get all the way down.
Hey!! What happened, what’s going on?? Why do you have a machete?
Someone attacked my friend! They ran off into the library!
Oh, my… they put their hand up to their mouth, we need to get out of here. Do they need an ambulance?
I don’t know! Oh shit I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like this before!
I’m… I’m calling an ambulance.
Sure, whatever, let’s just get out of here first.

Vert, Kenji, and the receptionist burst from the glass doors, running and panting, sending the doors into the rubber shock pads bolted to the wall. Vert ran into the grass, wheezing as she tried to put Kenji down as gentle as possible. Her vision went blurry, and she felt the pain in her head returning. As sparks flew in her eyes, she tossed her machete away. She tried to catch her breath, and winced, expecting the machete to make a loud clatter against the concrete. It didn’t. She looked over to where it would be. It was gone. She blinked. Her headache was gone, and her vision was clear. She looked around, but all she saw was the receptionist at the emergency telephone. She looked back to Kenji.

Hey… are you alright? You doin better?
He grunted, trying to get up I… don’t know. I don’t feel bad, but I feel… tired.
Hhhh, I’m so sorry…. Are you thirsty? Hungry?
N… no, I’m full.
She was still breathing heavy as she looked around. The stranger must not have followed them out.

I think… I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a ghost… I had no idea they could do that.
That’s… Kenji reached his non-frozen hand up, That wasn’t a ghost.
…What? What do you mean? It was blue, and like, misty and stuff
No… ghosts can’t do that. That was a ghoul.
Wait, what? A ghoul? What, are you kidding me? She looked up again and into the glass doors, then back to Kenji. What makes you say that?
Not a zombie… and ghosts don’t bleed.
But… ghouls aren’t supposed to be real. That was just like… a medieval thing they believed back then, right?
He shook his head, No. Well, some stories were just legends. That uh… was not a legend.
I… dunno if I… look, do you know how to fix what happened to you?
Can the doctors?
I… don’t know. Warren might.
Who? Wait. Vice president of your club Warren?
He tried to nod his head. But don’t…. Don’t tell anyone but Warren. It’s dangerous.
What? Why?
Nnngh… I haven’t…
Whoa hey man, easy.
I haven’t slept for 36 hours…

He laughed, then went limp, or at least, the unfrozen half of him did.
Ohhh shit. Please don’t be dead. Kenji. Kenji.
She slapped his face a couple times, and he winced and mumbled.
Oh thank goodness…. she sighed and fell onto the grass. She heard sirens in the distance.

The earth Færie’s hands glowed light green, and it reflected in the crystallized parts of Kenji’s arm. Nothing was happening. She pulled her hands back, and sighed. Another fæ was next to her, wearing a doctor’s white outfit. The earth færie turned to the doctor, and shook her head.

…I can’t explain it. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It must be… some kind of curse? But… I’ve never seen something like this… I’m sorry.

The doctor nodded, and patted the other fæ on the shoulder, I understand. The doctor turned to look at Vert, who was sitting on the other side of Kenji, on the side that wasn’t crystal. I’m very sorry ma’am. I’m afraid this will involve some kind of advanced treatment. It isn’t spreading, not even slowly, so he should be in stable condition. Do you have any numbers you can call, know any family of his?

Vert realized that she had no idea who Kenji’s family was. She’d never thought to ask, and he never brought it up. No… no, actually, I’m sorry, I don’t. He’s just my roommate.
I see. Well… you’re allowed to stay in here for a while, but… if his condition gets worse, we’re going to have to take the room.
Right, yeah. Thank you ma’am.

There was a knock at the door. The doctor looked over. Yes? What is it?
The door opened a tiny bit and a furred snout poked in. The patient has a visitor.
I know. Oh, you mean more?
Yes, ma’am.
Mm, send them in, then. she turned to Vert, I think it’s about to get crowded in here. I’ll let you and your friends talk alone.
Uhhh… okay.

The doctor opened the door, and her and the other Færie both left, leaving to door ajar. Friends…? Vert thought, and mouthed it to herself. She didn’t have to wonder long. A pair of neopians walked in. The first one in was an orange Mynci. He was tall and lanky, taller than an adult Mynci would be most of the time. He was wearing a black pinstripe suit, and had his short, orange hair gelled up to be spiked in the front. He had a revolver, its beige handle sticking out of a black leather holster. He carried himself like he was allowed anywhere he wanted to be, or that he wouldn’t care if he wasn’t.

He held up a badge of some kind, and said Howdy howdy. while smiling and bouncing his eyebrows once, then pulled the badge back into his suit, all of it too fast for her to see what kind of badge it was. As he weaseled his way into the room, the door opened wider. An enormous and muscled grey Lupe with short, white, side-swept hair walked in through the door, and she closed it behind her.

She was far larger than a normal Lupe, but in the opposite direction of her associate. She looked like she could lift a truck over her head, and she moved with the sort of measured caution that only a life of constantly breaking things by accident could teach. Her suit was much more formal, and looked like it was custom tailored. Underneath a plain black suit was a shimmering dark blue and silvery vest, with a white dress shirt under that, topped off with a grey & magenta scarf (which seemed meant to match her fur and eyes respectively). She had a maroon and black skirt, and all around her suit and skirt was some kind of leather strapping, holding something against her back that Vert couldn’t see. A slightly curved handle of something was over her shoulder, but that’s all.

The orange Mynci started talking, and Vert looked back over to him.

Ooof, mmm. Sorry about your friend here. Looks like he’s gonna be fine, though. Duddn’t look like a quitter ta me.
…Uh… hi. You uh, you think so? Also, who are you? Vert stammered.
Oh-ho, yeah, absolutely, kid’s fine. Yeah. So look uh, we’re…. the Mynci turned to look at the Lupe  —who did nothing—  and then back to Vert, We’re investigators. Makin sure it’s good in the neighborhood. You know? Right? Anyway. he shrugged, gesticulating as he spoke, We’re just here to ask some questions, nuthin too personal, that kanna thing. We’d just ask him, but, well, he’s bein a trooper over here. Needs to relax a lil, prob’ly.

Vert looked over to the Lupe. Her eyes were yellow, the irises were magenta, and her stare was intense. She said nothing. Vert looked back to the Mynci. I… okay? What do you need to know?

Good question, real good. Okay first of all, back in the library, what all did you see? What did they look like?
I… never told….
It’s okay, it’s okay, please. We’ve asked around about a few things already. We just need to know. We wanna get em! Ya know? We gotta know everything we can.

…Alright. He uh… he looked like a ghost…. she looked down at Kenji. She remembered what he said. He was a ghost. Definitely a ghost.
MmMMMmm. Yeah. he turned back towards the Lupe and pointed his thumb at Kenji and smiled, Definitely ghost stuff. He turned back to Vert. See it all the time. The ghostiest. Okay so, we need to know more than that. What were you doing, what were y’all up to, the whole works.
Alright, well… Kenji was getting some books, and… it was super late at night, and, he hadn’t slept in like… thirty or so hours—
Ohhh, wow, yeah. he interrupted with what Vert assumed was fake concern.
—so I went with him, to make sure, like, he didn’t fall over, or pass out in there. Then like… I got a headache, and then… someone was attacking him! He held him up by the neck! And he was like… slowly freezing him! So… I ran up and chopped at his, uh, arm with my machete.
Oh ho ho, damn! Badass! You scared the shit out of him, right?
N… not really, I was… kinda just faking it. I was more scared than he was. He said something about me not understanding anything and then ran off.
Nice, nice, you got outta there okay. How’d your friend fair with those stairs, eh? Heheheh.
The Lupe cleared her throat, directed towards the Mynci.
Sorry, continue. What was your name? Jade?
Yeah, yeah. Close enough. What happened after that?
Kenji uh… he passed out.
After he was crystallized?
Yeah. Whatever this… she looked at the crystallized parts of Kenji, stuff… is… it’s not painful, apparently. And he’s only asleep because he’s exhausted.
Right. We need to see the machete.
My machete? Oh, yeah. I would, but like, I kinda just dropped it on the sidewalk in front of the library after I got out of there. I think it landed in the grass? I was having another headache and I couldn’t find it. Anyway, I don’t think they’d let me bring a machete into a hospital anyway.
Right, of course. he nodded, Not unless it was inside somebody, heheha. So how long ago was this? Did anybody else see you?
About… an hour, hour and a half. Nobody else but the night receptionist at the library, but they only saw us going in and out.
I see. Well… thank ye, little lady, we appreciate it.

The Mynci turned to leave, and he slunk around the Lupe and to the door. Vert blinked. Is… is that it? You don’t need to know anything else?
Hm? he turned to look back, Oh, yeah, I mean, we do, but ya know. We already got your story, ya know? It’s bullshit-o’-clock in the mornin and I’m gonna take a nap.
D… do you have anything that can help him?
Who? …Oh, your friend! Uh, no. You’re on your own there, sorry. Don’t worry about it though! He’ll be fiiiine, he’s a pro. A little badass like you over there shouldn’t worry about it. Just go home and chill out, heck, you can stay here until he wakes up if you really want to, just don’t go back into the library, okay? Don’t want you bein too badass, that’s our job. Heheheh. We’ll like uh, look over the crime scene, dust for fingerprints or ectoplasm or whatever. The library is strictly off limits and you will be apprehended if you try to go back in.
O… oh. Okay?
Yeah. Later!
Uh… alright. Goodbye then?
Uh-huh! Buh-bye!

The Mynci darted through the door, and the Lupe turned around to leave as well. As she opened the door wide enough for herself, Vert saw what was strapped to the Lupe’s back. A huge shotgun was holstered loosely by leather straps and detachable metal buttons. The Lupe was still staring at her as she closed the door all the way. After that, there was nothing but the quiet whir of health monitors and air conditioning.

Sechson checked the time on the clock in his kitchen, as the sun was beginning to get close to the horizon. It was ten minutes until 7pm. He wrapped his cheese on toast sandwich in a paper towel, and got up.

He went into the living room/foyer and opened a metal box by the door, and turned a key. A low hum that was coming from the box, almost inaudible, shut off, and a green light connected to the box blinked out. He closed the box back up, and opened his door. He looked out over his yard, and seeing no one, he closed it again. He turned and fiddled with the chairs, straightening them out, or at least trying to get them all in a neat circle around the table. He let out a small sigh, unwrapping his sandwich and taking another bite. He leaned backwards to look out the window, and he squinted to see through the light of the sunset. There was a moving glint outside, and as he strained his eyes, he saw a silver colored Poogle walking up the drive. Sechson chewed and swallowed in a rush, and walked over to the door.

Hey Warren! Sechson said as he opened the door. The Poogle was looking down at first, but his gaze went to Sechson’s face as he heard his voice. You’re here a little early!
Yeah. Is that a problem?
No, no. I was actually getting a little bored.
Mmm. Just letting you know, as the vice-president of the club, I always get here early. Warren stepped up onto the porch, and Sechson moved out of the way to let him in. Warren looked Sechson up and down. Instead of the medieval clothing he was wearing earlier, the Bori had on dark cargo pants, a white shirt with a collar, and no shoes.
Hey uh, do you have a problem with leaving your shoes at the foyer? I just had the floors cleaned.
Nah, that’s fine. Kenji’ll probably like that. Warren looked up and around the house as he slipped his shoes off, and his eyes widened. Did you… do all this?

The ceiling had looping multi-color garlands hanging from it, and a banner was draped over the mantle. A large chocolate cake was sitting in the center of the round table with paper plates, napkins, and clear plastic utensils in a stack next to it. Warren’s gaze rested at the banner.

Did you uh… draw that yourself?
I did! Do you like it?

The banner was white with blue text, made with what looked like either paint or a very large felt pen. It read Welcome to the Paranormal Club, with a smiley face drawn in the center. The text Paranormal Club was just a little too wide at first, and the word Club was scrunched up after starting to run out of room towards the end.

It’s uh… Warren blinked a couple times …great.
Thank you!! I got… uh, I commissioned a cake too! It’s chocolate.
No thanks. I’m not hungry. They might be though.

Sechson was about to speak, but Warren held up a finger and interrupted him:
Two questions, uh, what was your name again?
No, I mean, full name.
Oh, Sechson Zahn.
Hmm, okay, maybe uh, question one point five, could you spell that for me?
Sechson is uh, S-e… c-h… s-o-n, and Zahn is z-a, h-n.
Right. Is that in another language?
Uh, maybe. If it is, I… haven’t looked it up or anything.
Alright. Second question, why were you waiting for me by the door?
Oh! Heh, I was actually waiting on a delivery.
A delivery?
Yeah. It was supposed to get here earlier today, with the cake, but I guess it got delayed.
What is it?
Aww, nooooo. It’s a surprise.
Warren raised an eyebrow, A surprise, huh? How scared should I be?
Not at all! I’m sure you’re gonna love it. At least, I hope people like it. It was kinda hard to get my hands on. Hey uh, by the way…
How many club members are there?
Oh! Uh…. Warren stammered a bit, At the moment, uh… maybe about…. he counted on his fingers, I think… five? Including you?
Sechson looked shocked O-oh. I thought… that there would be more people coming.
Nah. Sorry. I mean, there used to be more of us, but uh, they all pissed off the club president, one way or another, it… it’s complicated. It’s probably just gonna be me, Rei, and Kenji for a while.
I thought you were the club president?
Well, I might as well be. I don’t remember if mentioned it, but, no. Officially it’s somebody else.
Oh… well what about the other guy then? He seemed pretty uh… dedicated.

Warren looked at Sechson and narrowed his eyes …Whaddyou mean seemed dedicated? What other guy?
One of your guys uh… came to my house last night.
I’m sorry what?! Who? Warren had a look of legitimate confusion.
Uhh… glasses… hair over his eyes, white Kacheek—
I guess? Who is that?
That… that’s the club president. He was here last night? How??
I was hoping to ask you that.
Warren sighed. Look, okay, he didn’t do anything crazy did he? What was he doing? I thought he was sick!
He was. Sechson looked concerned at him, He was coughing up blood every other breath. He was… asking me a bunch of questions, looking around my house, and taking a bunch of notes on his clipboard.

Warren sighed and put his hand to his head I think I know what he was doing, then.
He did this exact same thing with the uh… campus location. When he first joined, like, back when the club was on campus, every time he’d learn something that could be hidden, he’d… he turned the entire place upside down, several times. He’s a little… paranoid… sometimes. Worse than I am, and that’s saying something.

I… see. Sechson still looked concerned, but tried to put it aside Well, he said that he’d be back with an assessment, whatever that means. He didn’t even say what he was assessing.
Warren sighed. Typical. I’m sorry. He must have snuck up here right after we left.
A little afterwards, yeah.

Rei opened the door and almost bumped into Warren Oops, sorry, hey Warren.
Hey. Lucine was here last night.
What?? You’re kidding! She looked over at Sechson, Was he really?
It’s, uh, it’s fine? I guess? I mean, he didn’t hurt me or take anything. You guys are kinda making a big deal out of this. Oh, and uh, no shoes please.
Oh, uh, sure. she backtracked a bit and left them by the step down with the others.
He can get pretty intense, huh?
Oh yeah.
I dunno how much of that guy I could handle, especially all that demon stuff he was talking about. He was kind of freaking me out a little.

Demon stuff. Waren looked concerned, Why would he ask you about demons?
He didn’t, exactly. He asked me why I wanted to join, and… I told him the truth. I came to find out about hunting ghouls. Ghouls have something to do with demons. The Servant was right, as usual. After that… that’s when the ranting started.
Ghouls? Why them specifically?
I need to. They’re a problem, and the police aren’t taking it seriously.
Of course they aren’t. Most people don’t think ghouls are real.

Hunting?? Rei piped up, looking excited You’re gonna go hunt them?
Hey, no. Warren pointed at her, and then looked back at Sechson, What exactly do you think we do here? We do not go ~hunting~ or anything like that. waving his fingers as he said it, This is an academic environment, we’re here to learn about things, not go running off into the night like wayward sons, guns blazing, to go kill something. We’re not maniacs.
That sounds so cool though! Rei pouted.
Cool? Cool?? Are you nuts? He looks back over at the Bori Look, I don’t give a shit about what you do on your own time, as long as it doesn’t look bad on us, and turning back to Rei, but you’re crazy if you think you’re gonna go with him.
Hey! Flying flamethrower here! I am probably the last person you’d have to worry about.
I don’t care! Warren sighs, Look, whatever, we’ll talk about it later.

There was a tiny, almost inaudible beeping sound. Ahh. Perfect transition. Warren said, then cleared his throat, Club time.

Warren expectantly looked at the door. So did Rei, and after looking back and forth between the two, so did Sechson.

Are… we… waiting for something?
Mm. Yeah, Kenji is usually here by now.
Ah. The uh, Mynci?
Yeah, that’s him.
Sechson waited a moment before asking more: Is he usually late?
No. Maybe a second or two, but that’s usually it.
Rei looked over to Warren You know of a number we can call to get ahold of him?
Nope. He shook his head. Sorry. I’m gonna do the whole script thing.
Aww, without him?
It’s fine. It’s always the same speech over and over again, it’s not like he’s missing anything. Just eat cake until he gets here.
Fine. Just don’t eat it all.
Believe me, Warren raised his eyebrows, I won’t.

Rei pulled out a chair and sat next to Sechson. Warren pulled out an old laminated sheet of paper from his jacket.

We now open this meeting of the Paranormal Club. He cleared his throat, Lucid dreams, tulpas, ghouls, super powers, and psychic phenomena. Things the wider world of Neopia dismisses as fantasy. But we know better, that these things are real, ordinary, even. This is where us students of Brightvale University of Magic he paused, …and others… come to talk, learn, and experiment with the unknown. He slid it back into his jacket and pulled out another one, a large sheaf of note paper. The club is now at five members, he gestures at Sechson, and the club meeting place is now here, at his house. I’m still extremely mad about the drama club taking our room, but that’s off topic.

Rei and Sechson, by now, had made quick work of the cake, and it was almost half gone. Warren was ignoring them, and reading a book.

Mm. Mmmhm. Rei points at her piece of cake with one of Sechson’s forks, holding the little saucer in her other hand while leaning against the table. This is really good. Did you cook this?
Oh, haha, no. I have no idea how to bake. I had it commissioned.
You had it commissioned? Who did you go to, a cake sculptor?
No, uh, just a… bakery.
Rei chuckled, You have a funny way of wording things.
I’m sorry… I don’t really get out much. Sorry if I’m too formal.
It’s okay. It’s kind of adorable.
Uh, he smiled, th-thank you. Heheh.

She took another bite, chewed it, then looked back, pointing the fork at him this time: Ya know, it’s a shame you didn’t join the club before yesterday, you made a chocolate cake on the wrong holiday.
Sechson tilted his head, and made a puzzled expression, …Wrong holiday?
Mmm. Yeah. Yesterday was Chocolate Day.
Hah. Sechson smiled and laughed. Yeah that would have been a funny coincidence. I wondered why the price of chocolate dropped so much since yesterday. Wait, did you mean today was a holiday too?
Oh, yeah, it’s the Day of Prophecy.
Uh… I’ve never heard of that.
Warren looked up from his book at Sechson, That’s because your cult either ignores or outright erases holidays that can’t be related to your god somehow.
Rei set her cake down, swallowed, and glared at Warren. Stop being a jerk, man.
It’s the truth! That’s why he’s never heard of it.
I… I see. Sechson made an awkward glance to the side, and served himself some more cake.
Rei turned back to Sechson Hey, don’t worry about him, it’s fine. I’m actually a huge nerd about holidays, especially super obscure ones. I’ve got a big honkin list back at my flat. Better than any calendar you’d buy at a gift shop.
Hahaha. Cool, nice. Could I see it, sometime?
Sure, yeah!

There was a loud thump against the door.

Warren looked up from his book, and Rei set down her saucer of cake. There was a pause. Rei uncrossed her legs, and leaned forward to stand up, and the door flung open. A green wocky with a white trilby barged in, standing at the foyer and looking around. Warren stared.

…Can I help you?
Is this the Paranormal Club? she asked.
Well, uh, not all of us, but yes.
She pointed. You’re Warren?
Yeah? Can I help you?

She looked around at them, and the house. She was panting, and looked furious. Well?? she asked, What the heck are you guys doing?
Warren responded with monotone: We’re having an orgy, what does it look like we’re doing.
Sechson nearly spat out his cake.
Ha ha, funny-man. Aren’t you guys worried about Kenji??
Wait. Warren set down his book, What? What’s wrong with Kenji?
You didn’t know?? He’s been in the hospital all day!!
The hell you mean you didn’t know? What, you expect us to be telepathic? Nobody called us!
Gahhg, fine. Whatever. I’ve spent all day looking for you guys! Rose didn’t give a crap about where you guys went after she kicked you out of where you usually are, so I couldn’t get anything from her, and so I had to ask the faculty and staff, but they either didn’t care or didn’t know, and then finally I had to go to the nurse to ask some lunatic with a clipboard, and he’s the only reason I found you, and I don’t have a car, so like, I had to jog all the way here and…
Whoa whoa whoa slow down. Kenji. What’s wrong with Kenji.
He got… friggin… half frozen or something! He said it was a ghoul, and that you’d know something about it, and not to tell anyone else!
Sechson’s eyes widened at the mention of ghouls, and he looked over to Warren.

Really. Warren’s voice was deeper than usual. Where did this happen.

Vert peeked over the dividing wall between the road and the campus. She made a frustrated grumble, and slunk back down. To see over, she had to stand on the back of a metal bench anchored into the concrete. A plaque set into the back read In memoriam Olivia Gardner. She clambered down, trying not to lose her balance. Warren, Rei, and Sechson stood behind the wall and out of sight of whoever was in the library.

Those weirdos are in there. Vert fumed.
Who? Warren crossed his arms.
The friggin… the spooks, man. The guys in suits and weird gear.
I thought you said you didn’t tell anybody.
I mean, she floundered, I had to say something. You can’t just drop a body off at a hospital and say well, my work here is done!
You could have done that. I would have done that.
Well, I think, she said, raising her voice but still stammering, that that’s a reflection on our respective characters, in my opinion, if you want my opinion.
Warren tilted his head and scrunched up his eyes Huh? …I’m sorry what??

Rei stepped between the two of them, Hey, easy, you two. We’re supposed to be, like. Sneaky? Right now? Are we trying to be quiet or not?
He’s being argumentative! Vert said, gesturing at Warren.
No, I’m being right. You just have a problem with it.
Hush! Rei looked ready to tear her hair out. Fyora’s name, this is ridiculous. Rei looked over to the Wocky, Just tell us what you saw over there.

Fine. Vert relented, There’s tons of guys in suits over there. Guys in like, full body plastic suits, a couple guys in fancy clothes, and uh… what looks like… riot gear? Maybe? It looks super scary.
What the hell did you tell them? Warren asked.
I lied! I said it was a ghost! Kenji said not to say anything about ghouls… but those spooks were there, and I guess they saw through that.
You keep saying that. What do you mean by that?
What, spooks?
Oh… those… guys with the badges. Met me in the hospital. Black suits, armed to the teeth, asked me a bunch of questions then ran off.

Warren looked to the side and hmmed. It’s… probably a good thing you didn’t say anything else.
Why? Who are they?
That’s not important. Warren climbed up onto the bench What’s important is capturing that ghoul and getting him to release the curse on Kenji.

Sechson piped up: Capture him?
Warren turned to him and said Yeah. then back to the wall, standing with his shoes on the back rest so that he could see over the wall.
How are we gonna do that?
I dunno. Warren pulled out a pair of silver binoculars from his vest, We’ll figure out something. Lucine is good at that kind of thing.
Then what?
I dunno.
We can’t keep it in my house forever.
I can. I’ve got a basement, and all the time in the world.
…Kenji doesn’t.
Well, I’ll think of something.

Sechson paced around a bit as Warren watched the commotion at the library himself. The Bori stopped, and put his hands on his hips, staring at Warren.
“Why don’t we just kill it?”

Warren turned his head first, and when his head wouldn’t go any farther around, the rest of his body followed. It was about four seconds before Warren could respond. I, h-aha, sohh— I’m sorry?
You heard me.

Vert whispered holy shit, dude under her breath, but Sechson either didn’t hear her or didn’t acknowledge it.
They’re monsters, Warren. Even if he does fix Kenji, what are we gonna do then? Just throw him in a basement forever? Let him loose to hurt somebody else??
No, no, we—
We break the curse by killing the monster.

All of them stood around for a moment, silent. Sechson was the first one to speak.
Alright, if that’s so crazy, convince me not to. It’s like a… vampire, right?
Well, no. It’s completely different. I mean, in the most broad of strokes, I guess you could say there are uh, …mechanical behaviors that are analogous—
They cause suffering, or worse, kill people to survive. They steal the lives of other people for immortality.
Y… yes.
They’re immortal undead that can’t be cured, right?
Well, I mean, you can I guess cure a ghoul if it turns into a demon due to—
So they can’t become mortal again?
They have to become a ghoul on purpose, right?
Well, there are very rare cases where people have become ghouls by accident, I mean, the method for becoming one didn’t just come out of nowhere, so it’s possible—
Mostlikely Sechson interrupted, we’re dealing with someone who chose to become an undead monster, and feed on people like they’re livestock, and he’s hurt one of your friends. I think I’ve made my point. I’m tired of standing around and talking to each other about it, it’s making me stir-crazy. I realize you don’t know me that well, but I’ve been researching these things for a while now, and there’s one of them, right here, hurting people. I’m not just gonna let it go.

Warren lowered himself down and sat on the bench. He sighed.

I mean, Rei looked at Warren, he’s got a point.
Warren slapped his palm to his forehead, with a metallic thud. UHHHHG. You’re kidding me. You have got to be kidding me.
If what we know about ghouls is true, then the vampire comparison is pretty, you know, spot on. It makes sense, Warren. At least it does to me.
We! Aren’t! Hunters! I feel like I’m going insane here!
Look, man, I’m sorry. But this is Kenji’s life that could be in danger. If it means doing something like this to save him, then I’m doing it. Some undead not-vampire messes with my friends, and they’re gonna get it. she said, her hand a tight fist. I’m going in there.
Whoa, hey, no! Warren stood up.

Uuhhm. Vert put her hand up to Rei much more timid now than before, I don’t know if I agree with either of you, like, completely, but… going in there while those guys are in there is a… really really really bad idea.
What do you mean? Rei asked I’ll be like Lemme tell ya sum’m, I’m about to kick some ass and blow him to smithereens. That’s what they’re there for, right?
When I was in the hospital with Kenji… one of those guys said that if I tried to go back in there, I’d get arrested or something. Like, bad arrested. He didn’t say that exactly, but…. Look, I dunno how to explain it, but I got a really bad vibe about it, okay? We’re not… supposed to know about this.
We need a distraction then. Sechson said, We need to get them out of there.
Alright. Rei nodded Somehow.
Well, Vert, you got them in there with whatever you said. Sechson looked over to her. Warren was holding his head in his hands, refusing to participate in the conversation.
Uhh, right?
Then, maybe, you could tell them you saw it somewhere else, get them on a wild goose chase.
Heyyy, Rey pointed at him, I like that idea!
Vert nodded. Oh uh. Uhm. You guys know this school better than I would. Where would… like logically, where would a ghoul go?
Uhhhh… Rei tried to think of something, and there was a few seconds of silence as everyone else did too.
Oh, Vert was the first to speak up, What about the dorms? I mean, like, that’s where people are. Because they need food I guess.

No. Warren lifted his head out of his hands.
No? Rei asked.
No. Warren looked around, sighed, and continued: Okay… look. The college… has nothing to do with this. The club… has nothing to do with this. I. he put his hand to his chest, I have nothing to do with this. Not a soul can see you go in or out. If you guys fuck up and die or get sent to the hospital, it was because you were trying to do sick bike stunts and failed spectacularly. Have I made myself clear? This is the only way I’m going to help you.
Yeah. Rei shrugged, That works.

Warren sighed, then turned to the Wocky …Okay… Vert, do you remember if the ghoul said anything to you?
Well… she looked around the ground, trying to think, I mean… not much. He called me a brat. Uh… and… well, nothing really helpful, he just said…. When he froze Kenji I asked if he was using magic, but he said it wasn’t magic like I would understand it. Or something like that.
Hmm. Warren looked over his shoulder. No. He wouldn’t go for more food. People are on high alert, and the sun is still up. I think I know where he might go. Personally, I think he’s still holed up in the library somewhere, but if these uh… spooks have done their research then the most logical other place the ghoul would go is the Magical Materials Storage.
Sechson looked confused, but didn’t say anything.
Rei looked at Warren What makes you say that?
Old magic. Stuff they don’t teach to just anybody anymore. The kind of obscure stuff that a self-made ghoul would have to rely on. A lot of spell components for stuff like that, and other potentially dangerous things, are in the Materials Storage way under the school.
Sechson nodded to himself, thankful that he didn’t have to interrupt for clarification.
Dang. Rei said, You make it sound like he’s already in there.
Good. We want it to be convincing. But, realistically, this ghoul probably has no idea where it is. It was only built, like, what, 40 years ago? And you said this guy looked like he was from Neovia.
Yeah. Vert nodded.
Right. Then… hhhh, I can’t believe I’m doing this. Then this is what we’ll do. I’m gonna call them, and then Rei goes in and torches him, she gets out, leaves no evidence. This happens in less than five minutes.

Sechson spoke up again: I think I have a better idea.
Ohh? Do you now? Warren responded with exhausted incredulity, You have even more helpful things to say? Oh, good, I’m… I’m all ears. Let me guess, you wanna burn the whole library down? Just to make sure?
No, no. Listen. Remember when us three…. Sechson gestured at Rei, themselves, and Warren met last night?
You were at a payphone. We could use that payphone to make the call, instead of like, your personal number or something. You can see the library from that payphone.
Wait, why would you think…? You know what, yeah. Fine. That’s… that’s not a bad idea. I have another phone I could use, but I’ll keep that in mind. What else?
Is there a phone in the library?
Yeah. The ringer is usually off though.
Good. We’ll need that number.
You wait at the phone, and the rest of us will go to my house, so that we can pick up my delivery. Then, once those guys are out of the library, you can call us.
What?? What’s so important about your delivery?
Just trust me. You keep a watch outside, and if they start to come back, call the library phone so that we’ll hear it, and even if we aren’t done, we’ll bail.

Warren rested his head on a fist, and let out a quiet hmmmm. He blinked and looked around at the sidewalk, thinking it over.

You know what? Alright. That works for me. I dunno what’s so important about those packages, but I like the library phone idea. …Better safe than sorry, I guess. Alright? Everybody like the idea? Anybody uhh, got something else to throw in and further complicate this? …No? Good, then. I guess we’re doing this.

Warren knocked on the door, and waited. No response. He cracked the door open a little, and stuck his head in. There was no one in the Paranormal Club Temporary Drama Club room but empty chairs and tables. There were sequins, specks of glitter, and feathers wedged into the teal carpet.

Oh you’re kidding me. They’ve already trashed this place. Unbelievable.

He stepped around a pile of fabric, then around the podium, to a small table next to the window. There was an old rotary telephone, with its phone cable connected to a large black box, which then connected to the wall. It had a symbol of an eye, with a line going diagonally through it. He started turning the dial, and with the other hand, closed the blinds.

Ringing. Then, someone picked up, but said nothing.

Hey. This is Gümüş. Get Jimmy on the phone. It’s important.

Sechson smiled, and his eyes widened, as he saw a stack of cardboard boxes in front of his driveway.

Yes! It’s here! I was so worried we’d have to wait.
What are all these? Rei looked them over as the Bori tore into them with his claw-fingers.
These… he grunted as he pulled something out of the box, are our weapons.

Rei tilted her head. It was some kind of metal backpack, painted an off-white. To one side, there was a hose, and what looked like the head of a heavy duty flashlight at the end of it, with a massive lever to turn it on. Sechson started putting it on before explaining anything. As he turned around to put the straps on, Rei saw a glowing diamond-shaped glass window in the back, and a yellow crystal on the inside.

Se… Sechson what is that?
This… is a High Intensity Magic Bombardment Ordnance. Or, the magi-gun, for short.
Vert lowered her head Holy shit, dude.
Where did you get these? Rei asked as she grabbed a box.
It’s not something civilians are supposed to know about right now. I know some people who have connections to the military, and they uh, got me some. It was a failed project, to them, but we can put it to much better use.
Failed project?
The beam it fires is uh… not very effective against living targets.
Vert squinted at it So it’s… basically just a flashlight?
Sure, but, here’s the thing. This lense pumps out enough light magic to knock someone over on the highest setting. And what are we fighting?
A… a ghoul. The undead. Rei smiled, The undead hate light magic.
It kills them, actually. Very effectively. You hit them with enough of this stuff and they dissolve into dust. Normally you’d need more than any normal person could ever cast in a week, but… that’s not a problem anymore.
Oh hell yes. Ohhh we are gonna be so pimped out. Wait. Wait, do I really need one of these things?
What do you mean? Sechson looked a bit disappointed.
I mean, I’m a fæ. I’ve got, like, magic for days.
Ah, I see. It’s uh… more just-in-case then. I uh, don’t have very much magical aptitude. I have like, one sixteenth the magic a normal person would normally have. I think it’s genetic or something.
Aww, man, I’m sorry.

A phone started ringing in the distance. Sechson looked over to his house.

Oh? Oh that must be Warren! We gotta get these things on, then.

Rei pushed the glass door, and it swung open without a sound, as she barged into the library. Sechson followed in after, and Vert walked farther behind. They all looked around. The inside of the library was untouched, save for the map of the library being ripped off of the wall, one corner of the laminated paper still attached via staple. Rei was almost bouncing up and down with excitement, Sechson was looking up & around, and Vert looked like she was doing her best imitation of a prey animal. He went up to the front desk, and to the phone.

Alright. Sechson asked, his voice low. Who knows how to operate this thing?
I do. Vert said.
Good. I want you to turn this thing’s ringer on, as loud as it can be, if possible.
Okay. she picked up the phone, and turned it up-sidedown, and flicked a switch underneath the bell, then put it down as gentle as possible, as if she’d just set a bomb to go off, Done.

Rei turned to her, whispering too.

Right. So where did you see ‘em last?
Up those stairs. At the uh, paranormal section.
Really? Pfft. That seems appropriate, I guess. Let’s go.

All three ran up along the shelves. Rei ran right in, while Sechson held, with his back to a shelf and straining his neck to look around a corner. Vert couldn’t help looking at the shattered glass, and the gash where her machete had landed. She looked up. No one had come to patch the hole in the glass yet, and a sunbeam shone through the library. Her eye followed the beam. Farther into the library, on a second level balcony visible from where she stood, there was a dark blue shape. An upright, bipedal shape. Vert tensed up.

Hey… hey. Guys.
He looked over to her. Vert jabbed a finger at the distant figure, and Sechson looked to where she was pointing. He raised his eyebrows.
Rei! he whispered as loud as he dared to She found him! He’s over there!
Rei ran back over and peered from behind the shelf, as the rest of them took cover, watching him. The figure moved only a little, dark blue mist obscuring his features. As they studied him closer, they could see that he was reading something, and holding a large laminated sheet.

Okay… uh… what do we do. Do we… flank him? Do I just fly over there? Surprise him?
Hmmm… I guess. Sechson shrugged. Let’s do all of those.

Warren looked out from the blinds. There wasn’t anything to see outside, at least, not yet. He sighed and waited.

God I hope they don’t get themselves killed or something.

He shuffled and held the blinds open with one finger, leaning against the small table.

The door behind him opened.

He jumped and took a sharp breath, turning around to see a Lupe in blue look just as surprised.

Uhh-hah, hello, Ms. Blau! Can I help you? What are you doing in here?
What do you mean, what am I doing in here What are you doing in here?
Oh, haha, I’m uh, Warren turned and bent down, scooped up the black box and stuffed it into his silver jacket, just pickin up some stuff I forgot to take with me! Like, from when you uh, kicked us out. Of our room.
You had enough in here to not take in one trip?
Uh, yes.
Mmm. Well, my apologies, then.
Thank you. Very nice of you.

She sighed, and pinched her brow. Look, Mr. Gray, I’m very sorry if your sudden relocation upset you, but… really, if you knew how much a successful production of The Forest Prince meant to this school’s budget committee, you wouldn’t blame me.
I see. Warren raised a blind to look outside the library. Nothing yet.
The construction of a new amphitheater is just such a ludicrous expense to put onto my club budget….
Wait, hold on. Warren raised an eyebrow and looked back at her, They’re making you pay for it?
Exactly! Even though it’s their property, it’s coming out of my budget. They’re acting like one of my students blew it up! I think that they think that my drama club isn’t important. They think that refined theatre culture has no value here.
So, basically, what you think of my club.
Yes! Precisely. he looked back out of the blinds as she continued, If my production is a financial success, however, those pencil-pushers won’t have a choice but to listen to me. Are… are you looking for someone?

Warren pulled himself away and looked back towards her.
Ha! Uhm, no. I was just looking at the uh, sky. It rained really hard, yesterday. I was just, making sure it wasn’t going to rain tomorrow. Today, I-I mean, today.
Mm, alright. Well, do you have everything you need?
Well, we need you out of the room.
You… you do? Why?
Well, obviously, it’s filthy in here. I have to make sure this place is clean before the next club meeting!

Warren sighed. Yeah. I uh. his expression changed to defeat, Yeah. I’m done in here.

Good, excellent. she clapped her hands twice, Maintenance!!

The door swung open wider, as people flooded into the room from the hall. Janitors carrying trash cans, vacuums, rags, and spray bottles. Warren had his fingers pressed into his temples as he walked out.

Vert could hear the ghoul mumbling to himself, as she hid in the shadow of the shelves to his left. Now that there was light, she could see that he was an ancient-looking Usul, with a trenchcoat, a grey beard, and short tophat. To her, he seemed agitated, or worried, and was skimming through a book on a large pedestal.

Ah-ha. That’s where you bastards put it.

He threw down a large laminated sheet. She looked closer at it. It was the map of the library, missing a corner. The Usul pulled out another map, and a pen, and circled something on it, then wrote something else under that.

Rei appeared, floating up from under the balcony.

Yo what’s up.

The Usul turned looked over to Rei (his back now facing Vert) and stared, dumbfounded for a moment. He jerked back, his hands drawn to his hip as though he was about to ready some kind of weapon.
NOW! Sechson yelled, as he flicked his backpack on. The Usul looked around, hearing him but not knowing from where. Vert flung a large book at his back, and he lurched forward onto the balcony railing, spinning around to look at Vert. There was a moment of furious recognition, cut short by Rei punching him in the back of the head, magical fire flashing against him.
Ooww!! Shit!! My knuckles! Rei grabbed her hand.
The Usul stumbled forward, almost losing his balance, when Sechson rushed out from behind a corner. He held the hose’s nozzle at the ghoul, and cranked the lever on it up to maximum.

The light that the magi-gun produced blinded everyone, and there was a smashing sound in front of them. Sechson turned down the beam and lowered it. The Usul had been hurled into the book stand, so hard that he’d knocked it over, and he rolled past it onto the ground. He struggled to get up. The side of his face that had been facing the magi-gun had been erased, with nothing but a blur of dark blue mist to replace it. He noticed this, and went up to feel it. Most of his left hand was gone, too. The Usul looked to Sechson with a wild, feral anger. He grabbed his cane and held it like a hammer, rushing towards the Bori. Sechson pulled the lever again, knocking the ghoul off his feet and into the wall behind him.

N-no… this is stupid… I was so close to it… I’m dying again—
Sechson didn’t give him time to finish. He let a beam of the concentrated light out from the pack, and it shone into the ghoul. He tensed up, began glowing bright, and then, with the sound of a firecracker going off, exploded.

Warren climbed up, ducking behind the facing of the administrative building’s roof. He looked around, making sure that no one could see him. He peeked his head over the façade, and at the library. The sun was not quite setting, and the bright afternoon had only a few hours of light to spare. He squinted, looking to the right of the library. His eyes widened. People in suits were walking back over, and unmarked cars were appearing around the corner.

Ssshit. God dammit Jimmy.

Warren heaved himself up, and ran towards the edge of the building. He leapt over the lip of the building’s facing and held the outsides of the ladder, sliding down it and landing with a thud on the ground. He ran from the side of the building, to the telephone booth he’d broke the bad news to Lucine in. He flung the door open and hurried inside, coins appearing in his hands, and disappearing into the slot. He held up a hand, with the phone number to the library written on it, looking back and forth as he pressed it into the pad.

All that was left of the ghoul was nothing more than a fading black shadow on the carpet. Vert and Rei looked over it, and Sechson bent down to look at the paper that the Usul had dropped as he exploded. It was a map of the school. He looked down to where he’d circled something. In what was an otherwise empty square, between the library, the laboratory, and the magical studies wings, there was a scribbled text underneath a circle, that read Magical Materials Storage — Find Tooth, Find Axel.

Huh. Sechson said to himself. He was right.
Hm? Rei looked over.
Oh, uh. Warren said he’d want to find the materials place. That was what he was looking for. he said, as he set down the map the ghoul had made.
Huh. No kidding?

They stopped, as the phone in the front of the library went off.

Oh shit, they’re here, we gotta go guys.
Wait, here? Like, at the front door? Vert exclaimed.
Uhm. Sechson looked around, Is there a, uh, back entrance?
No, there isn’t! Vert panicked, Not unless you mean an emergency exit, which is gonna set off every single alarm in this place!
Hey, calm down. Rei smiled, I’ve got an idea.

Warren stared into the front doors of the library. No one was coming out. He fidgeted with the phone cord. A blank van pulled up next to the entrance, on the concrete footpath. He hung up the phone and walked out of the booth, closed the door, and acted as casual as he could manage. He started heading towards the out-of-sight bench that they’d met up at before Before he went behind the wall however, he took one last look at the library. Nothing. He looked up to the sky in his stress and exasperation.

He saw an orange-red blur as his eyes passed over the roof of the library. He looked back towards it.

Through a hole in the stained glass windows, Rei was struggling to lift Sechson and Vert, while they were both carrying metal backpacks. Warren’s eyes went wide, and he pulled out his binoculars again. She’d managed to pull everyone up, but had exhausted herself in the process, and once she’d cleared the glass, her wings gave out, and they all tumbled on the sloped roof. Vert had steadied herself against the side of the roof, and began climbing down the fire escape ladder, wide-eyed, and as fast as she could. Rei stood back up, for a moment, before collapsing. Warren watched as Sechson abandoned his backpack and jumped over to her, and he caught her just before she could slip and fall off of the building.

Warren smiled, and put away his binoculars.