Who’ll Stop the Rain

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 hinges and fixtures that looked like brass or gold. 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 stood, and the Skeith closed the door behind him. He wore a flimsy brown vest with no shirt, bare arms with a large tattoo Sechson couldn’t make out on his right arm, black pants of indeterminate material, and a bowler hat. He looked Sechson up and down.

Af’ernoon. The Servant of the Message has been esspectin you.
Sechson gave a respectful nod, I understand. Thank you.
The Skeith turned, opened the small door, and walked back in. Sechson waited as a few moments passed. There was a loud clunk, what sounded like metal sliding against metal, and then another clunk. The wooden double doors opened by themselves, and he took this as a cue to go forward.

The room was dark, but he could tell it was massive. Electric lights —all switched off— dangled from the ceiling, which extended several meters into the air, and he couldn’t see the sides of the room to his left or right. Before him was what looked to be either a stage or a pulpit, one and a half meters tall, made of wood. A large glass tunnel went down the center of the room (to Sechson’s right), large enough for only a single person to comfortably walk through it. It extended to the pulpit, and up some stairs to it. The entire structure was surrounded by this glass, like a forcefield. An aquarium came to Sechson’s mind as he looked at it. Inside was a figure. They weren’t a neopian, nor a Fæ.

He was tall, and so white as to be blinding. There was no color at all to his body & clothes: skin, hair, and even the irises of his eyes were a blank, empty white, only the outlines of them visible. He wore a business suit, enrobed by a stole that went down to his ankles, all the same color as the rest of him. He sat in a large wooden chair, leaned forward, one arm on the arm of the chair, as the other held up a large white chalice.

Sechson. he looked down at him, Pleasure to see you. he spoke fast and with a stentorian voice, I hope you’ve been well.

Whenever The Servant of the Message spoke, the sound of his voice struck Sechson with a moment of panic. Some kind of insinctual, alien wrongness about it. The Bori reached what he considered to be a reasonable distance to the pulpit and lowered himself to one knee, then bowed his head. The white figure took a drink from the chalice, and ice clinked against the insides.

Do you know why I’ve sent for you?
I do not, your Holiness.
Mmm. 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. Your journey up the Bridge is inspiring. You’ve done much, for your age, and for your position. Passed your fifteenth test, by a wide margin. And now, sooner than expected, you’re getting your sixteenth, directly from me this time.
Thank you, very much your Holiness. 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 your Holiness, 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 the situation.
No no, not demons. Let me finish. Dangerous monsters aligned with demons. You understand?
I’ll… try my best.
Of course. I want you to go out there… yes, among the faithless. Seek these ghouls, and all that the people know of them. Track them, record all that you find, and bring that information to me. And, if possible, take care of some of them. You will be doing us —and the world— a great service.
…Among the faithless?
I’m not worried. Your faith is strong. You should worry far more about real monsters. You can filter the lies of this world, you have proven that well enough, but tooth, claw, and foul sorcery will be far harder to ignore.
I understand. I’ll go right away.

The figure smiled as he leaned back and raised his chalice higher, Good. I am putting great faith in you. Do not disappoint me.
Thank you. I’m honored, and humbled by you.
Of course.

Kenji walked with his hands in his pockets. The only thing that stood out from the background darkness was his reddish fur, and the streetlights behind him. He walked down the concrete sidewalk, slow and deliberate, as he fought his sleepiness off. 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 walked beside him to his right, and waved at him. He felt panic inside him, and his heart started to beat 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… I… maybe? I’m sorry. Didn’t do anything embarrassing, did I?
What? Nah, you were just kinda walkin around. Thought maybe you were waiting on somebody.
That’s… strange. I guess… 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. 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. Sorry. You didn’t have to….
Hey, it’s no problem. I uh… feel bad about you all losing your room. I really hope you don’t think I….
No, no. Don’t worry. I didn’t assume anything.
Oh, thank goodness. I even tried to convice her to choose a different one, but it was already decided, apparently. 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 from before, dressed in blue, Oh, I see.
Yeah. She’s not usually like this, I swear, 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 on the steps. The entrance to the library was a long curve of stairs that led up to a semicircular platform, and into many glass double doors, though at this late hour, only one pair was unlocked. Vert entered first, and Kenji ducked in behind her.

The inside of the library was massive, and Kenji 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 the heraldic crest of Brightvale.

The escutcheon, the shield, was of a 13th century make. It was flat at the top, and almost an inverted triangle, save for the slight curve of the lower left and right edges. It had three concentric borders: one small sable (black) border on the far outside, a larger border of a bright or (golden yellow), then another small border of sable. Below a field of argent (white silver), was an inverted chevron of vert (green). Upon the honour point (the upper center), was the symbol of Brightvale itself: an or eight pointed star, the four cardinal direction points large, and the four diagonals small. This symbol, and the shield it was on, was plastered over almost everything in the library.

There seemed to be a dark blue fog, visible in the distance, but Kenji assumed that it was just the sparse lighting, his imagination, or his sleepiness. A tired Yurble looked up from a book at 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, some of the lights are off.
Thank you. Vert nodded.

They both went deeper into the library, Vert close behind Kenji. He scuffed the carpet as he walked a few times, by accident. 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. Full day of classes tomorrow.
She sighs Good grief. Did you tell them that?
You should have.
Mm. Kenji stopped by a shelf, and looked at the section label on it.

130 — Parapsychology, Paranormal, & Occultism

He turned and walked down into the darkness, and Vert followed. Kenji pulled out and looked at some books. He’d pulled a list, a small slip of paper, from his pocket, and checked 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.
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’d been 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. There’s… a new member.
Ah, nice! Wait, then why didn’t they just come here?
Not public. Only… go to school here are allowed in. After hour.
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 blinked slower, and he slurred his words a bit.
Ahh. That guy. 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.
Uh‑huh. he nodded.
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 did it faster than before. An ache grew in her head as she turned away, and walked out of the paranormal isle. Her head buzzed 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. She went forward and almost stumbled down. There were sparks of light in her eyes as she looked to where the shattering sound had come from. There was a hole in one of the stained glass windows in the ceiling. Her gaze followed the beam of moonlight down to where the glass had fallen, and saw that there was something else there.

It was a machete, driven blade down into the wood.

She walked up to it. The blade wobbled a little, but did nothing else. She hesitated, then picked it up, and looked 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. As she looked back to the blade, she saw a reddish blur where Kenji was in the reflection behind her. She tilted it back to see him again. He continued to look at the books, and he held a stack of them in his arm.

The shape of a person materialized behind him, and their hand moved slow to his throat. Her eyes went wide, her heart jumped, and she whipped around.

Kenji! Behind you!
He turned around, then dropped the books he held as the 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 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 his back drug against the bookshelf as he rose up. Holy shit it’s a fucking ghost. she thought to herself, terrified. It looked at her as she ran towards them, and then looked away, apparently not impressed by her. Now she was scared and pissed.

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, frightened at first, but after a moment, and some flexing of his fingers, looked back towards them. Kenji had slumped down, and tried to push himself away with one leg.

Kenji, run.
Can’t… something’s wrong with… half of me…

She looked down at him. Half of Kenji’s body had been crystallized 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, just angular and blurred, and even his clothes looked like it had gone crystalline.

Magic…? she wondered aloud, and glared at the stranger.
He walked closer, Not the kind you would know about.
Hey don’t you take one more step. You understand me? she pointed her blade at him, There’s more where that came from, asshole! Your head’s next!

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

Fine, brat. I’m too old for this.
Hey! Don’t run away from me! but as soon as she had shouted 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, and put one of his arms over and behind her head.

I dunno know how much longer I could’ve kept that up. I feel like I’m gonna throw up. Let’s get you outta here. she whispered at him, as she drug 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 a good thing or not.

She could hear the Yurble as they ran 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, and sent the doors into the rubber shock pads bolted to the wall. Vert ran into the grass, and wheezed as she tried to put Kenji down as gentle as possible. Her vision went blurry, and she felt the pain in her head return. Sparks flew in her eyes, and she tossed her machete away. She tried to catch her breath, and winced, as she expected the machete to make a loud clatter against the concrete. It did not. She looked over to where it would be, but 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, then tried and failed to get up …Don’t know. Don’t feel bad, but I feel… tired.
Hhhh, I’m so sorry…. Are you thirsty? Hungry?
N… no, I’m full.
She still breathed 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 that wasn’t on TV… I had no idea they could do that.
That’s… Kenji reached his non‐crystallized hand up, That wasn’t a ghost.
…What? What do you mean? It was blue, and like, misty and stuff.
No… a ghost’s eyes are red… and ghosts can’t do this. he pointed at the half of him that was crytallized, That was a ghoul.
Wait, what? A ghoul? Are you kidding? she looked up 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 real. That was just like… a medieval thing they believed back then, right?
No. Well, some things are just legends. This uh… was not a legend.
I… dunno if I… look, do you know how to fix what happened to you?
Could a doctor?
I… don’t know. Warren might.
Who? Wait. Vice president of your club Warren?
He tried to nod his head, but was unable, But don’t… don’t tell anyone but Warren. Dangerous.
What? Why?
Nnngh… 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 happened. She pulled her hands back, and sighed. Another Fæ was next to her, and she wore 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. she turned look at Vert, who sat on the side of Kenji that wasn’t crystallized, I’m very sorry. I’m afraid this will involve us keeping a watch over him. 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?
It opened a tiny bit, and a green Gelerts’ snout poked in, The patient has a visitor.
Yes, they’re in here. Oh, do you mean there’s more?
Yes, ma’am.
Mm, send them in, then, thank you. 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, as both her & the other Færie exited, and left the 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, lanky, wore a black pinstripe suit, and had his short orange hair gelled up to be spiked in the front. He had a revolver, and its beige handle stuck out of a black leather holster. The letters S Z were carved into it in straight lines. The Mynci 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, said Howdy howdy., smiled and bounced his eyebrows once, then pulled the badge back into his suit, all too fast for her to see what kind of badge it was. As he weaseled his way through the room and into a chair, the door opened wider.

An enormous, muscled grey Lupe with long white hair walked in through the door, and she closed it behind her. She was far larger than a normal Lupe, both in height and musculature. She looked like she could lift a truck over her head, and moved with the sort of measured caution that only a life of constantly breaking things by accident could teach. Her suit was much less flashy, and looked like it was custom tailored. A plain black suit jacket and dress slacks, and below the suit, a white dress shirt. All around her suit was some kind of leather strap, which held something against her back that Vert couldn’t see. A curved handle of something was over her shoulder, but that’s all.

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

Ooof, mmm. Sorry about your friend there. Looks like they’re gonna be fine, though. Duddn’t look like a quitter to me.
…Uh… hi. You uh, you think so? Also, who are you?
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 and gesticulated as he spoke, We’re just here to ask a couple questions, nuthin too personal, that kanna thing. We’d just ask them, he gestured at Kenji, but, well, they’re 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 intimidating. Neither said anything. Vert looked back to the Mynci. I… okay? What do you need to know?

Good question, great question, real good. Not much. First of all, what was your name? Jade?
Yeah, yeah. Close enough. Title?
Alright. Now, 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 more. We wanna get ‘em! Ya know? We gotta know everything we can.

…Alright. They uh… the one who attacked us, they looked like a ghost…. she looked down at Kenji, and remembered what he’d said, They were a ghost. Definitely a ghost.
MmMMmm. Yeah. he turned back towards the Lupe, pointed his thumb at Kenji, and smiled, Definitely ghost stuff. then turned back to Vert, See it all the time. The ghostiest. Okay so, we need to know a little 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—
He? he interrupted.
Kenji. she motioned downward with her muzzle.
Ahh, got it. Sorry, go ahead.
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! They held him up by the neck! And they were like… slowly freezing him! So… I ran up and chopped at their, uh, arm with my machete.
Oh ho ho, damn! Badass! You scared the shit out of ‘em, right?
N… not really, I was… kinda just faking it. I was more scared than they were, I’m pretty sure. They said something about magic I don’t understand, 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 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’ll need to see the machete.
My machete? Oh, yeah. I would show it to you, 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, heheheh. So how long ago was this? Did anybody else see you all?
About… an hour, hour and a half. Nobody else but the night receptionist at the library, as far as I know, but they only saw us going in and out.
I see. Well… thank ye, we appreciate it. I think that’s all we really need.

The Mynci pushed himself up out of the chair, turned to leave, and 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 might, at some point, but ya know. We already got your side of the story, ya know? It’s bullshit o’clock in the mornin and I’m going to bed. Maybe if I wasn’t exhausted I’d keep going.
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 stared 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 leaned against the granite countertop —white with black and gold speckles— in his kitchen, as he ate a cheese‐on‐toast sandwich. He looked up, to check the time on the clock by the window, as the sun met the horizon. It was one of those 12 hour clocks from Meridell, and it read ten minutes until 7pm— the 19th hour for Brightvale. He wrapped his sandwich in a paper towel, pushed himself away from the counter, and walked through the large threshold into the living room.

He walked across the living room/foyer, then onto the stone step‐down where the front door was, into a pair of sandals. He opened a beige‐painted metal box by the door, and turned a key. A low hum that came 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. There was no one there, so he closed it again.

He stepped out of his sandals, back up onto the wood of the proper living room. He went over and fiddled with the chairs, straightened them out, or at least tried to get them all in a neat circle around the table. He let out a small sigh, unwrapped his sandwich and took another bite. He leaned backwards to look out the window, and squinted to see through the light of the sunset. A glint of movement outside caught his eye, and as he strained his eyes, he saw a silver colored Poogle walk up the drive. Sechson chewed and swallowed the rest of the sandwich in a rush, and walked over to the door.

Hey Warren! Sechson said with a big smile as he opened the door.
The Poogle had looked down at first, but their gaze went to Sechson’s face as they heard his voice.
Sechson continued as Warren held silent, 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 them in. Warren looked him up and down. Instead of the medieval clothing he wore earlier, the Bori had on dark cargo pants, a white shirt, and no shoes.
Hey uh, do you have a problem with leaving your shoes at the foyer? I just had the floors cleaned.
One of those kinds of houses? Alright, no issue. That’s fine. Kenji’ll probably like that. Warren looked up and around the house as they slipped their shoes off, and their eyes widened. Did you… do all this?

The ceiling had multicolored (blue, green, red, and yellow) garlands that looped around & hung from it, and a banner was draped over the mantle. A large, undecorated chocolate cake sat 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 the first word ran 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, and they pulled out a small pad of paper:
Two questions. First, what was your name again?
No, I mean, your full name, and title. I need it for paperwork.
Oh uh, mister Sechson Seighard Zahn.
Hmm. Sounds familiar.
What’s yours?
Mine? Uh. they looked to the side, then back, Mister Warren Grey. they lied.
Nice to meet you. he smiled and nodded.
Right. Yeah. Okay, maybe uh, question one point five, could you spell that for me?
Ahh, sure. Sechson is uh, S‑e… c‑h… s‑o‑n, Seighhard is S‑e‑i… g‑h… a‑r‑d, and Zahn is z‑a… h‑n.
Right. 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 their eyebrows, 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…. they counted on their fingers, I think… five now? 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 one then? They seemed pretty uh… dedicated.

Warren looked at Sechson and narrowed his eyes …Whaddyou mean seemed dedicated? I don’t follow. What other one?
One of your members uh… came to my house last night.
I’m sorry what?! Who? Warren had a look of legitimate confusion.
Uhh… glasses… hair over their eyes, white Kacheek—
I guess? Who is that?
That… that’s the club president. He was here last night? And you remember what he looks like? How??
I was hoping to ask you that. Wait. Why wouldn’t I remember what they—  I mean, he looks like?
Warren sighed. Look, okay, he didn’t do anything crazy did he? What was he doing? I thought he was sick!
I mean, he was. Sechson looked concerned at them, 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 a hand to their 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. And somehow, he remembers it.
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.
Hm? Oh, uh, sure. she backtracked a bit and left them by the step down with the others.
So why shouldn’t I be able to remember him?
Warren put their hands in their pockets and leaned over the table as they explained, It’s… complicated. He's uh… his sickness has a uh, supernatural component.
Whoa. he raised his eyebrows, Like a curse?
Mmm…. Well. It’s complicated, like I said. I’ll explain it later. Maybe. If I think that it’s important, then I’ll tell you about it.
Rei looked over to Sechson and chuckled, He can get pretty intense, huh?
He nodded, 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. Warren lowered their head, and their brow, 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. After that… that’s when the ranting started.
Ghouls? Why them specifically?
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, 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. and waved their fingers as they said it, This is supposed to be 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?? That’s ridiculous. they shake their head, then look back over at the Bori, Look, I don’t care what you do on your own time, as long as it doesn’t look bad on us, then turned back to Rei, but you’re endangering yourself, and the whole club, if you go with him.
Hey! Flying flamethrower here! I am probably the last person you’d have to worry about.
I don’t care! Warren sighed, Look, whatever, we’ll talk about it later.

There was a tiny, beeping sound from Warren’s watch. Ahh. Perfect transition. he said, then cleared his throat, Club time.

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

Are… we… waiting for something?
Mm. Warren nodded, Yeah, Kenji is usually here by now.
Ah. The uh, Mynci?
Yeah, that’s him. Mr. Mashiro.
Sechson waited a moment before asking more: Is he usually late?
No. Maybe a minute or two, but that’s usually it. Usually if he knows he can’t get here he’ll let me know beforehand.
Rei looked over to Warren, You know a number we can call to get ahold of him?
Other than the supervisor for the dorm he’s in, no. they shook their head, Sorry.

After another moment of waiting, they inhaled, I’m gonna do the whole script thing now.
Aww, without him?
It’s fine. It’s always the same speech over and over again, it’s not like he’s missing anything. Maybe a class made him late or something. Just eat cake until he gets here.
Fine. Just don’t eat it all.
Believe me, Warren raised their 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. They cleared their 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 they paused and glanced at Sechson, …and others… come to talk, learn, and experiment with the unknown. They slid it back into their jacket and pulled out another, a large sheaf of note paper. The club is now at five members, they gestured 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 ignored them, and chose to read a book instead.

Rei leaned against the table, and nodded her head, Mm. Mmmhm. she pointed at her piece of cake with one of Sechson’s forks, as she held the little saucer in her other hand. 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 adorable.
Uh, he smiled, th‑thank you. Heheh.
Warren looked over, rolled their eyes, and went back to their book.

She chewed another bite, looked back, then pointed 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 their book, That’s because your cult either ignores, co‑opts, or erases holidays that can’t be related to your god somehow.
Rei set her cake down, swallowed, and glared at Warren, Oh hush, stop it, you’re bein a jerk.
That’s— 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. Kenji tells me about holidays from Shenkuu and stuff like that. I’ve got a big honkin list of ‘em 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 their book, and Rei set down her saucer of cake. There was a pause. Rei leaned forward to stand up, but the door flung open before she could do anything else. A green wocky with a white trilby barged in, stood at the foyer, and looked around. Warren stared at her.

…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 panted, and looked furious, Well?? she asked, What the heck are you all doing?
Warren responded, almost monotone: We’re having an orgy, what does it look like we’re doing.
Sechson nearly spat out his cake.
Ha ha, funnyman. Aren’t you worried about Kenji??
Wait. Warren set down their 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 people! Rose didn’t give a crap about where you all 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 some of the old members, talk to some blue asshole in drainpipe jeans, and he’s the only reason I found you, and I don’t have a car or a bike, 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 went 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 their arms.
The friggin… the spooks, man. The people 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— I would have done that.
Well, I think, she raisied her voice but still stammered, that that’s a reflection on our respective characters, in my opinion, if you want my opinion.
Warren tilted their head and scrunched up their 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 gestured at them.
No, I’m being right. You just don’t wanna hear 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 spooks in suits over there. People in like, full body plastic suits, a couple of ‘em in fancy clothes, and uh… what looks like… riot gear? Maybe? It looks super scary.
What the hell did you tell these people? 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… ones with the badges. Met me in the hospital. Black suits, armed to the teeth, asked me a couple questions then ran off.
Describe them.
Uh… specifically? An orange Mynci and a grey Lupe.
Warren blinked, Ahh. I see.
Is that good or bad?

Warren looked to the side and hmmed. It’s… not bad per sē, but 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, said Yeah. then turned back to the wall, as he stood with his shoes on the back rest so that he could see over.
How are we gonna make it do that?
I dunno. Warren pulled out a pair of silver binoculars out 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. The Bori stopped, and put his hands on his hips, and stared at Warren.
Why don’t we just kill it?

Warren turned their head first, and when their head wouldn’t go any farther around, the rest of their 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 under her breath, but Sechson either didn’t hear her or didn’t acknowledge it.
It’s a monster, Warren. Even if it does fix Kenji, what are we gonna do then? Just throw it in a basement forever? Let it 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, tell me why I’m wrong. It’s kinda 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?
I mean, you can I guess cure a ghoul if it turns into a demon—
So they can’t become mortal again?
They have to become a ghoul on purpose, right?
Well, 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 it hurt one of your friends. 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 there’s one of them, right here, hurting people. I’m not the kind of person to just gonna let it go.

Warren lowered themselves down and sat on the bench. They sighed.

I mean, Rei looked at Warren, he’s got a point.
Warren slapped their palm to their forehead, with a metallic thud. Uhhhhg. You’re kidding me. You have got to be kidding me.
I don’t really have any argument against that. 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 drastic 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 in 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 that ghoul to smithereens. That’s what they’re there for, right?
When I was in the hospital with Kenji… one of those people said that if I tried to go back in there, I’d get arrested or something. Like, bad arrested. They 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.
Warren sat back down.
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 held their head in their hands, and refused to participate in the conversation.
Uhh, right?
Then, maybe, you could tell them you saw it somewhere else, get them on a wild 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 their head out of their hands.
Rei looked over at them, and raised her eyebrows, No?
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. they put their hand to their chest, I have nothing to do with this. they put their hand back down, Not a soul can see you go in or out. If you all fuck up and die or get sent to the hospital, it was because you were trying to do bike stunts and failed spectacularly. Have I made myself clear? This is the only way I’m going to help you.
Yeah, sure. Rei shrugged and nodded, Whatever. That works.

Warren sighed, then turned to the Wocky, …Okay… Vert, do you remember if the ghoul said anything to you? Or were they just… feral or something?
Well… she looked around the ground, trying to think, I mean… not much. They called me a brat, that I do remember. And… uh… well. Nothing else really helpful I think, they just said…. When they froze Kenji, I asked if they were using magic. They said it wasn’t magic like I would understand it. Or something like that. Then they just, like, melted into the fog.
Melted? Into the fog? Dematerialized or something?
I mean, I guess? I dunno what else to call it, what they did.
Hmm. Warren looked over their shoulder, No. They wouldn’t go for more food. If they’re smart, anyway. People are on high alert, and the sun is still up. I think I know where they might go. Personally, I think they’re 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.
Vert tilted her head, The what? What makes you say that? I’ve never heard of that.
It sounds like they’re using old magic. Possibly thaumaturgy. 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. I’m not surprised you hadn’t heard of it. It’s not top secret, or anything, but… staff don’t really talk about it all that much unless it’s for specfic lessons or classes. There’s some funky stuff in there that a bunch of teenagers don’t need to be foolin’ around with.
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, they probably has no idea where it is. The ghoul, I mean. It was only built, like, what, maybe a decade ago? And you said they looked like they were from Neovia?
Yeah, I think so. Vert nodded, Something like that.
Right. Well then… hhhh, I can’t believe I’m doing this. Then this is what we’ll do. I’m gonna call your spooks, then Rei goes in and torches the ghoul. 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? Let me guess, you wanna burn down the whole library? Just to make sure?
No, no. Listen. Remember when we 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 I’d use my home phone…? You know what, fine. I have a fake phone number I’m gonna use, but I’ll keep that in mind too. What else?
Rei scrunched up her brow, Warren, why do you have a fake phone number?
They shook their head, I’m not answering that. That’s not important.
Sechson continued, Is there a phone in the library?
Yeah? I’d assume so. The ringer is probably 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 run.

Warren rested their head on a fist, and let out a quiet hmmmm. They blinked and looked around at the sidewalk, as they thought it over.

You know what? Whatever. That works for me. I dunno what’s so fuckin important about these packages of yours, but the library phone idea is decent enough. …Better safe than sorry, I guess. Alright? Everybody like the idea? Anybody uhh, got somethin 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. They cracked the door open a little, and stuck their 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.

They stepped around a pile of fabric, then around the podium, to a small table next to the window. There was an old rotary telephone there, with its phone cable connected to a large black box, which then connected to the wall. The box had a symbol of an eye on it, with a bar that ran in a diagonal line through it. They began to turn the dial, and with the other hand, closed the blinds.

It rang, for a few moments, then, there was silence. Someone picked up on the other side, but said nothing.

Hey. Warren said, 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 to put it on before he explained anything. As he turned around to put the straps on, Rei saw a diamond shaped glass window in the back, and a yellow crystal on the inside that glowed.

Se… Sechson what is that?
This… is a High Intensity Magic Bombardment Ordnance. Or, the uh, magi‑gun, for short.
Vert lowered her head Holy shit.
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, 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 at hurting living targets. Kind of the opposite. They’re looking into medical applications, apparently.
Vert squinted at it So it’s… basically just an oversized flashlight?
Sure, but, here’s the thing. This pumps out enough light magic to knock someone over on the highest setting. And what are we fighting?
A ghoul. The undead. Rei smiled, The undead hate light magic.
It purifies them. 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 disappointed.
I mean, I’m a… 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. Kinda like Warren I guess?
I guess. It’s okay, don’t worry about it, let’s just get these things on and get back to the library.

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 bounced up and down with excitement, Sechson looked up & around, and Vert did 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, turned it upside down, 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, Yeah, got it.

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, as he strained his neck to look around a corner. Vert couldn’t help but look 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 pointed. 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 and watched him. The figure moved only a little, dark blue mist obscured his features. As they studied him closer, they could see that he was reading something, and held a large laminated sheet in his other hand.

Okay… uh… what do we do? Rei turned her head to look at Sechson, Do we… flank him? Do I just fly over there? Surprise him?
Hmmm… I guess…. he shrugged, Let’s do all of those.

Warren looked out from the blinds. There wasn’t anything to see outside, at least, not yet. They sighed and waited, God I hope they don’t get themselves killed or something. That would be my fucking luck.

They shuffled and held the blinds open with one finger, as they leaned against the small table by the window.

The door behind them opened.

They jumped and took a sharp breath, then turned around to see a Lupe in blue, 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, then stuffed it into their 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, I’ll allow it.
Why thank you. How nice of you.

She sighed, and pinched her brow. Look, Mr. Grey, I’m very sorry if your sudden relocation upset you, but… really, I gave your president quite a lot of time to respond. And besides, if you knew how much a successful production of The Forest Prince meant to this school’s budget committee, you wouldn’t blame me.
Right. 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.
They looked back out of the blinds as she continued.
If my production is a financial success, however, those jocks won’t have a choice but to listen to me. Are… are you looking for someone?

Warren pulled themselves 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 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. their 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 carried trash cans, vacuums, rags, and spray bottles. Warren had their fingers pressed into their temples as they 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, as he skimmed 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, and she floated 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. Wh— who the hell are you??
The Brightvale Paranormal Club. You hurt our friend. So we’re going to hurt you.
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, he could hear him but didn’t know from where. Vert flung a large book at his back, and as it hit him, he lurched forward onto the balcony railing. He spun around to look at her. There was a moment of furious recognition, cut short by Rei, who punched him in the back of the head, and magical fire flashed against him.
Ooww!! Shit!! My knuckles! Rei grabbed her hand.
The Usul stumbled forward, and almost lost his balance. 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 smash 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 carpeted ground. He struggled to get up. The side of his face that had faced 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, then rushed towards the Bori. Sechson pulled the lever again, knocked the ghoul off his feet, and into the wall behind him.

N‐no… this is stupid…. When my employer hears about this, he’s going to…. I came all this way… I got so close to it
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. The ghoul tensed up, began glowing bright, and then, with the sound of a firecracker going off, exploded into ash.

Warren climbed up and ducked behind the facing of the administrative building’s roof. They looked around to make sure that no one could see them. They peeked their head over the façade, and at the library. The sun was not quite set, and the bright afternoon had only a few minutes of light to spare. They squinted, and looked to the right of the library. Their eyes widened. People in suits walked back over, and unmarked cars drove up from around the corner.

Ssshit. they whispered to themselves, God dammit Jimmy.

Warren heaved themselves up, and ran towards the edge of the building. They leapt over the lip of the building’s facing and held the outsides of the ladder. They slid down it and landed with a loud metallic thud on the ground. They ran from the side of the building, to the telephone booth they’d broke the bad news to Lucine in. They flung the door open and hurried inside. Coins appeared in their hand, and disappeared into the slot. They held up a hand, with the phone number to the library engraved on it, and they looked back and forth as they pressed it into the numpad.

All that was left of the ghoul was a 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 it would want to find the materials place. That was what it was looking for. he said, as he pocketed the map the ghoul had made.
Huh. No kidding?

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

Oh shit, they’re here, we gotta go.
Wait, here? Like, at the front door? Vert exclaimed.
Uhm. Maybe? 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 and looked up, I’ve got an idea.

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

They saw an red‐orange blur as their eyes passed over the roof of the library. They looked closer at it.

Through a hole in the stained glass windows, Rei struggled to lift Sechson and Vert, while they both carried metal backpacks. Warren’s eyes went wide, and they pulled out their binoculars again. She’d managed to pull everyone up, but had exhausted herself in the process. 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 to climb down the fire escape ladder, wide‑eyed, and as fast as she could. Rei stood back up, for a moment, then collapsed. 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 their binoculars.